Digestive enzymes are produced in your saliva and as exocrine (a gland that secretes a substance out through a duct) secretions from the pancreas, released via pancreatic juices into the duodenum by specific hormonal signals during the consumption of food.
Causes of Digestive Enzyme Deficiency
There are many reasons why we do not make enough of our own digestive enzymes. Poor enzyme production can lead to problems of nutrient insufficiency, and even deficiency, resulting in a whole host of health problems.
One of the main reasons for reduced output of digestive enzymes is poor exocrine pancreatic function. The causes of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) are very diverse ranging from:
Problems with the endocrine part of the pancreas such as insulin dysregulation from diet high in refined carbohydrates and diabetes
Gall stones that block the bile duct and reduce/halt the flow of pancreatic juices (biliary stasis)
Poor function of the Sphincter of Oddi that controls release of bile and pancreatic juices from the bile duct into the small intestines
Diets high in refined carbohydrates causing hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and diabetes
High calorie intake
Too little or too much exercise
Symptoms of Digestive Enzyme Insufficiency
There are many symptoms relating to digestive enzyme insufficiency. Let’s face it, if you are not absorbing all the essential nutrients from your diet then there could be no end to the potential impact on your health!
Symptoms of digestive enzyme insufficiency are normally first apparent in the gut. Symptoms may appear for a day or even a week, and may include:
Abdominal pain or discomfort
Irritable bowel type symptoms
Gut microbiota dysbiosis
Undigested food in the stools
Stools that float (steatorrhea)
Feeling full after only a few mouthfuls
Food allergies and intolerances
It’s important to bear in mind that as we age, or indeed experience chronic sub optimal health, our digestive function deteriorates. The general medical trend is often to view common acute digestive symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion as an excess stomach acid (hyperchlorydria).
The appropriate use of enzymes in the ageing population may well help prevent nutrient deficiencies and even inflammatory conditions.