If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you’ve probably already scoured the internet for supplements and remedies to help relieve your symptoms. Digestive enzyme supplements are one of many supposed remedies for alleviating tummy troubles. But do they work?
Digestive enzyme supplements
A digestive enzyme is a complex protein made by your body to help break down food into smaller molecules so they can be absorbed into your body. Most digestive enzymes are made by your pancreas, though a few are made by your mouth, stomach, and small intestine.
Examples of digestive enzymes include:
- amylase — breaks apart complex sugars into smaller molecules like maltose
- lipase — breaks down complex fats into smaller fatty acids and glycerol
- pepsin — breaks down proteins in foods like meat, eggs, and dairy products into smaller peptides
- lactase — breaks down the milk sugar called lactose
- cholecystokinin — a hormone secreted in the small intestine that causes the gallbladder to contract and release bile, and the pancreas to release digestive enzymes
- trypsin — breaks down protein, so it can be made into amino acids
Supplements are digestive enzymes in a pill or chewable tablet form. They may include one or a combination of multiple digestive enzymes. Some are sold in conjunction with probiotics.
How they might benefit someone with IBS
The labels of digestive enzyme supplements often include broad claims. They might claim to:
- support healthy digestion
- optimize the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, and protein
- promote optimal nutrient absorption
- reduce gas, bloating, indigestion, and constipation following meals
- help your body process difficult-to-digest foods
- support colon health
IBS is typically diagnosed based on symptoms and by ruling out other conditions. At this time, the cause of IBS isn’t known, so treatment is aimed at alleviating symptoms, such as:
Because digestive enzymes assist with the breakdown of food, supplements might help alleviate common IBS symptoms.
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