Are digestive enzymes effective in relieving the symptoms of food intolerance?
Michelle Lee, HK BioTek Intern
What is food intolerance?
Food Intolerance occurs when our body fails to metabolize certain food substances effectively, causing symptoms of discomfort. Besides, food intolerance, “non-food intolerance”,which may be caused by environmental factors. Non-food intolerance appears due to excessive consumption or exposure to certain food substances that cause food sensitivity, and hence develop into food intolerance. The common types of food intolerance are lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance. Lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance
Lactose intolerance is caused by the lack of a digestive enzyme called "lactase" to fully digest lactose in milk products. Lactose fermentation occurs in the colon, causing stomach gas, bloating, convulsions, diarrhea, and some other symptoms. Gluten Intolerance, which is similar to lactose intolerance, is due to a lack of enzymes to digest gluten in the stomach and intestines. The small intestine becomes unable to digest gluten. Gluten is a glycoprotein commonly found in foods, such as wheat, oats, and barley. Inflammation occurs in the intestines of patients, and allergic reactions (e.g. abdominal pain) when eating gluten-containing foods. Can only buying and eating gluten-free and casein-free products completely solve food intolerance? Although the most common solution to lactose and gluten intolerance is to follow a casein-free or gluten-free diet, in which abstinence can reduce discomfort. But there are usually hidden sources of casein or gluten in foods. Citizens should carefully read food labels to avoid casein and gluten as much as possible. Can taking digestive enzyme supplements alleviate the symptoms of food intolerance when consuming those allergen-containing foods? There are many different digestive enzyme supplements on the market, which claim that they can alleviate the symptoms of food intolerance. Digestive enzyme supplements can help people to tolerate low levels of gluten or casein intake, in order to enjoy their intolerant foods in normal diets. Digestive enzymes products help with digestion and alleviate the discomfort caused by food intolerance. However, studies have figured out that the effects of digestive enzymes can be limited, which only temporarily relieve the symptoms of stomach gas and pain, but some severe symptoms (such as diarrhea and bloating) may also persist. In view of the variable pH ranges of the human gastrointestinal tract, most of the digestive enzyme supplements on the market with limited effective pH ranges in which it cannot functionally work in the entire gastrointestinal tract. Digestive enzyme mixtures containing major digestive enzymes have their own and narrow acid-base (pH) activity ranges. Therefore, digestive enzyme supplements can be helpful for one part of the digestive system, whereas it may have no effects on other parts of the digestive system. Digestive enzyme supplements need to be carefully formulated with designated pH ranges. At a specific pH value range, the enzyme mixtures can be beneficial throughout the gastrointestinal tract and exert its effects. Conclusion Nearly a quarter of people suffer from digestive problems for a long time. In most cases, it reflects gastrointestinal dysfunction, leading to symptoms such as digestive problems and symptoms of food intolerance. Applying digestive enzyme supplements can improve digestion, and relieve symptoms of food intolerance but the effect can be limited. It is recommended to use the means of Rotation Diet, or consume other alternatives (such as plant milk, e.g. soy milk), and gluten-free products, to improve the situation.