Digestive enzyme supplements are available in the health food store or pharmacy. They are typically used to improve digestive health by increasing the number of bacteria and enzymes used to break down food into its molecular level. This is a critical part of the digestive process.
There are three reasons that people use digestive enzyme supplements: digestive diseases, indigestion, and compromised immune systems. The popularity of these products has increased dramatically in the last ten years due to an increased interest in alternative medicines and supplements. These supplements are marketed as a safe way to reduce abdominal bloat, increase vitality and improve overall digestive health.
In order to determine if digestive enzyme supplements work, it is important to understand how the digestive system works. The purpose of the digestive system is to break down food and liquids into their molecular particles. The body uses these molecules as building blocks for cells and to provide a source of energy.
Four different glands in the body secrete digestive enzymes: salivary, stomach, pancreas, and small intestine. Each set of glands releases a different combination of enzymes to break the food down at that particular stage of the digestive process. The glands automatically adjust to provide the required concentration and mixture of enzymes required for each stage.
Digestive enzyme supplements are typically sold in a pill format. This pill contains all the different enzymes required for digestion. The theory is that by adding more enzymes to the digestive system, they will work to improve the efficiency of the body and improve digestion. There are three issues with this theory: method of input, distribution, and effectiveness.
When you swallow a pill, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach work to dissolve the pill coating. Once it is dissolved, the pill contents are added to your stomach. The levels of acid and active enzymes in the stomach are designed to break down all material for absorption or elimination. There is no scientific proof that synthetic enzymes can survive this process.
Digestive enzymes are used at all stages of digestion. It is impossible to determine if the enzymes that entered the stomach through a pill are transported to the correct location in the small intestine. As part of the stomach contents, they would move through the small intestine as during the absorption and elimination process. Synthetic supplements can have the same basic molecular structure, but they are synthetic. There is no proof that the body recognizes these molecules as enzymes and does not simply eliminate them as waste.