Clinical Application and Mechanism of Action
Digestive Enzymes Quick Guide
1. Post-Meal Bloating and Abdominal Discomfort (Indigestion or Dyspepsia)
Evidence has shown that digestive enzyme supplementation can improve digestion of a large, high fat, very rich meal, in individuals with normal digestive processes. The subjects given the Digestive Enzymes reported less bloating, perception of gas and fullness after consuming the same large, high fat, very rich meal as those given the placebo. One clinical observation of significance suggests that individuals who chronically experience post-meal (postprandial) bloating, belching or gas tend to have low gastric acidity if the symptoms arise shortly after consuming a meal, whereas in patients where these symptoms develop an hour or more after eating, the problem is more likely to be a result of digestive enzyme deficiency.10 Some reports indicate that 58% of the population suffer from some type of digestive disorder and may thus, benefit from the use of digestive enzyme supplementation.
2. Cystic Fibrosis, Pancreatitis, Crohn's Disease, Celiac Disease
These conditions have been shown to benefit from the use of digestive enzyme supplementation as insufficient digestive enzyme synthesis and secretion are hallmark features of each of these conditions.
3. Arthritic Conditions
Although not well acknowledged, some health practitioners indicate good results with various arthritic patients when Digestive Enzymes are added to the treatment program. Dr. A. Renshaw from Manchester in England, reported in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases that he obtained good results with enzyme treatment in over 700 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or fibrositis. Some cases of ankylosing spondylitis and Still's disease (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis) have also responded well to this intervention. 7 Other reports include favorable outcomes in patients with multiple sclerosis and lupus (systemic lupus erthymatosus). The mechanism of action in these cases appears to involve interaction with the body's immune system. Animal and human studies demonstrated that, in certain instances, a person can develop a leaky gut, which implies that the normal gut lining has been damaged or is somehow defective, allowing certain partially digested food matter to be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream these substances trigger a response from the immune system, producing immune complexes (a type of antigen-antibody reaction), with accompanying inflammatory reaction and a worsening of the above-noted conditions. German researchers have shown that the use of digestive enzyme supplements in these cases can dissolve and clear these immune complexes, helping to improve the patient's overall condition.
4. Cancer Treatment Support
Studies on humans and animals suggest that Digestive Enzymes may also be of value in the prevention and treatment of certain cancers. The Scottish embryologist, Dr. John Beard, proposed in 1906 that pancreatic enzymes represent the body's main defense against cancer and would be useful in cancer treatment. Acting on his hypothesis, a number of researchers pursued this line of investigation and the medical literature in the first two decades of the 20th century provided documentation of several case reports of tumor regression and even remission in terminal cancer patients treated with pancreatic enzymes.
Dr. Beard (an embryologist) discovered that in all animals the pancreas is secreting enzymes well before birth. Beard also noted that the placenta of all mammals invades the uterus and then on a certain day, its invasive growth is shut off, which in humans is 56 days after conception. Beard realized that the day the placenta stopped growing was the same day the pancreas started producing enzymes. From this he theorized that pancreatic Digestive Enzymes were a signaling agent that stopped the cancer-like invasion of the placenta into the uterus. Despite the ridiculing he received for this theory, Beard and others went on to shown that Digestive Enzymes can, in fact, stop the growth of invasive cells, including many different human cancer cell lines.13 After Beard's death in 1923, the enzyme theory was largely forgotten until 1963, when Dr. Gonzalez, a doctor involved in the use of Digestive Enzymes, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and treated himself with high dose oral pancreatic enzymes. The treatment was successful and in 1993, Dr. Gonzalez was asked by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to present some of his cancer cases. He presented 25 cases involving a variety of different cancers. Based on his presentation, Dr. Gonzalez was a awarded a research grant from the NCI to perform a study on 12 patients with diagnosed pancreatic cancer.
The overall survival rate for pancreatic cancer is normally less than one percent at five years, after diagnosis. It is one of the most highly malignant cancers of humankind, is considered to be incurable at this time, and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, claiming 27,800 lives in 1996. In the two-year study by Gonzalez, he was able to significantly improve survival in the majority of patients who followed his protocol, which included diet, nutritional supplements, detoxification procedures and large doses of proteolytic enzymes (25-40 gms of porcine lyophilized pancreas product daily, taken in capsule form, away from meals, and spread evenly throughout the day). Gonzalez has now gone on to receive full funding to do multi-institute studies using Digestive Enzymes, based on these encouraging preliminary results.
5. HIV and AIDS
Nutrient malabsorption is a negative prognostic factor in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Recent studies have shown that pancreatic insufficiency is a co-determining factor of malabsorption in these cases. As such, a study was performed to test the efficacy of pancreatic enzyme supplementation in AIDS patients with known fat malabsorption problems. The study showed that the use of the digestive enzyme product Creon, at a dose of 1000 units of lipase enzyme per gram of ingested dietary fat, was highly effective in reducing fecal fat loss. The researchers indicate that if other double-blind studies reveal similar findings, then pancreatic enzyme supplementation can be added to the weapons in the fight against HIV/AIDS-associated malabsorption.