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Digestive Enzyme and Prebiotic Supplementation

Digestive Enzyme Insufficiency

Clinical studies have shown that many people make insufficient quantities of digestive enzymes, which can result in post-meal bloating, indigestion, other digestive symptoms, and a worsening of ha_cta2
inflammatory conditions, including various skin conditions and arthritis.  This occurs because proteins, carbohydrates, and other food matter that are only partially digested (instead of being completely broken down by digestive enzymes) draw copious quantities of water into the intestinal tract and undergo fermentation by large bowel bacteria.  This produces abdominal discomfort and distension, abdominal and pelvic bloating, and other symptoms of poor digestion following a meal.  Digestive enzyme insufficiency can also exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, lactose intolerance, and food allergy sensitivities. 1,2,3,4,5  In addition, some partially digested proteins may enter the bloodstream and trigger immune inflammatory reactions, which may aggravate skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and arthritic joint symptoms.  As such, individuals suffering from these conditions may benefit significantly from the use of a high potency, full spectrum, digestive enzyme supplement (from non-animal sources). 6,7,8

In fact, research indicates that as we age the body tends to make smaller quantities of digestive enzymes, which may explain in part, the higher incidence of digestive and other related problems that occur as we grow older. 9

In a state of optimal health, the pancreas, and cells that line the intestinal tract, secrete sufficient quantities of digestive enzymes during a meal to completely break down protein, carbohydrates, fat and other nutrients to their simplest and most basic form.  Once absorbed into the bloodstream, various cells of the body use these basic nutrients in their metabolism to support the health of the body.  Conversely, any partially digested food matter that enters the blood stream is treated as a foreign substance, which can cause certain immune cells to overreact and generate the kind of exaggerated inflammatory response that is seen in autoimmune diseases, arthritis and certain skin inflammatory conditions. 6,7,8,9

Thus, individuals who are prone to any of the above conditions or symptoms, should consider the use of high potency, full spectrum digestive enzyme product (from non-animal sources) as a means to support digestive function and minimize the presence of incompletely digested food matter from entering the large bowel and the bloodstream.  A full spectrum digestive enzyme product should include the following digestive enzymes:

  • Alpha and Beta Amylase
  • Protease I
  • Protease II
  • Lipase
  • Cellulase
  • Lactase
  • Maltase
  • Sucrase

Prebiotics And The Intestinal Flora

Acting in concert with digestive enzymes, studies reveal that supplementation with prebiotics has also been shown to improve many digestive tract problems, create a healthier environment within the large bowel, and help block the overreaction of immune cells that perpetuate arthritic and skin inflammatory conditions. Prebiotics primarily include fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) and inulin, which serve as food for the friendly bacteria (e.g., lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus bacteria) within the flora of the large intestine. The intestinal flora is comprised of at least 500 different species of bacteria, which normally reside in the large intestine and influence digestion, immune function and bowel health to a significant degree.
Unfortunately, the use of antibiotics and/or poor dietary habits can result in a higher concentration of unfriendly bacteria than friendly bacteria within the intestinal flora, producing a state known as intestinal dysbiosis.  Intestinal dysbiosis has also been described as “a state of altered flora in the gut, including situations whereby organisms that do not normally cause infection, including bacteria, yeasts, and protozoa, induce disease by producing toxins or altering the nutrition or immune response of the body”. 

Studies reveal that when intestinal dysbiosis is corrected through the use of probiotics (live friendly bacteria supplementation) or prebiotics (FOS and inulin), many health conditions show significant improvement, especially digestive tract disorders and inflammatory diseases of joints and the skin.  Thus, for individuals suffering from various digestive tract disorders and/or inflammatory joint or skin conditions, special consideration should be given to nutrition and supplementation strategies that support the growth of the friendly gut bacteria.  Prebiotics such as FOS and inulin, at doses as low as 1,000 mg per day, have been shown to favorably support the growth and replication of friendly gut bacteria, helping to crowd out and minimize the concentration of the unfriendly gut bacteria.  Studies show that this can result in significant clinical benefit to individuals suffering from a number of intestinal tract disorders and inflammatory states.  10,11,12,13,14

The Problem With Probiotic Supplementation

Under controlled and experimental conditions, supplementation with friendly live bacteria (e.g., lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus bacteria), known as probiotics, have been shown to favorably influence the composition and function of the intestinal flora.  In turn, this has produced impressive outcomes in patients suffering from a number of digestive disorders, intestinal diseases (including ulcerative colitis), vaginal infections, food sensitivities, autoimmune arthritic conditions, and inflammatory skin condition (e.g., eczema, atopic dermatitis). 15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26

Unfortunately, many probiotic supplements available in the consumer market place are not reliable, due to the fact that many, if not all, of the bacteria are often dead by the time they are ingested by the consumer.  This is because these live bacteria begin to germinate (multiply and reproduce) as soon as they are encapsulated and bottled.  Each bacteria can only reproduce a fixed number of times and then it stops dividing and dies. Just like bacteria growing on food, the warmer the temperature, the faster the bacteria reproduce.  A 1990 study showed that most probiotic supplement capsules on the retail shelf contained no living bacteria.  27   Thus, supplementation with probiotics is very tricky and it is difficult for a  manufacturer or retailer to guarantee the number of live bacteria present at any given time, due to the many variables that affect the replication rate of the bacteria in the product (e.g., different temperatures it has been exposed to after its encapsulation). In recent years probiotic manufacturing has improved and some companies now make probiotic supplements that have a guaranteed shelf-life. You should try to use brands that provide this guarantee. However, I would always add a supplement with FOS and inulin (prebiotics), as they remain a reliable way to support the growth of friendly gut bacteria in these cases.  28   

Summary

In conclusion, individuals prone to the digestive disorders and diseases, and/or the inflammatory joint and skin conditions mentioned in this research review, should strongly consider the use of a high potency, full spectrum digestive enzyme (non-animal source) in combination with prebiotic supplementation (yielding at least 1,000 mg per day of FOS and inulin) as an important complementary intervention.  Working together, digestive enzyme and prebiotic supplementation help support the health and function of the intestinal tract and immune system, and correct some of the underlying abnormalities that contribute to a host of health maladies.  It is now possible to use a single product that combines both high potency digestive enzymes with sufficient levels of prebiotics (example - Adeeva Flora Essentials or a similar product)

 References available upon request from arlene@adeeva.com

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