A digestive enzyme deficiency, as the name suggests, is characterized by inadequate secretion of enzymes that aid in digestion. This write-up provides information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition.
Digestion is a complex process that involves breaking down the complex food that we eat into a simpler form. Enzymes produced by the salivary glands, secretory cells in the stomach and pancreas, and secretory glands in the small intestine play a vital role in breaking down the complex food into simpler forms. These are basically complex proteins that accelerate certain biochemical reactions. If these glands are unable to secrete these enzymes in the right amounts, it would have an adverse effect on one’s digestive health.
Functions of These Enzymes
◘ The process of digestion begins with the chewing of food in the mouth. The salivary glands present in the mouth secrete an enzyme called ptyalin. This is a form of amylase that facilitates the conversion of starch into simple sugars, such as maltose and dextrin. The food then travels through the esophagus into the stomach, where peristaltic contractions facilitates further breakdown of food.
◘ While the food is in the stomach, a proteolytic enzyme called pepsin acts on the proteins and breaks it into peptides. Besides pepsin, gastric lipase, gastric amylase and rennin also act on food and break down the complex foods into simpler forms.
◘ As the food is passed into the small intestine, bile, a digestive juice from the liver, pancreatic juices from the pancreas and certain intestinal enzymes such as sucrase, maltase, lactase, and isomaltase work on it. It is here that the nutrients are absorbed by the blood and circulated through the body.
While the absorption of the nutrients provides us with the much-needed energy, the wastes are excreted out.
Causes of Deficiency
Certain genetic metabolic disorders are believed to be risk factors for enzyme deficiency.
◘ Phenylketonuria, glycogen storage disease, and various inherited metabolic disorders could be responsible for causing deficiency of certain digestive enzymes.
◘ People affected by pancreatic insufficiency are most likely to develop lipase and amylase deficiency.
◘ Poor dietary habits could make one susceptible to certain diseases that could affect the production of enzymes. Deficiencies of digestive enzymes could also be associated with excessive consumption of processed foods.
◘ It is believed that following a diet that is rich in complex carbohydrates is one of the most common causes of an amylase deficiency. When one consumes such a diet, the body will have to produce higher amounts of amylase for the conversion of carbohydrates into a simpler form.
It is believed that the deficiency of amylase makes one susceptible to inflammation, skin rashes and allergies. If one’s body is deficient in protease enzymes, that is, the enzymes that convert protein into amino acids, one might experience mood swings, irritability, or anxiety. A deficiency of lipase affects the digestion of fats. It is believed that a lipase deficiency might make one susceptible to high cholesterol, high triglycerides, muscle spasms, or vertigo. Since these enzymes help in digestion of food, a person affected by a deficiency is most likely to experience symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, or constipation.
Certain diagnostic tests can help the doctors identify the enzymes that are not secreted in sufficient amounts. In order to treat such an deficiency, doctors may prescribe digestive enzyme supplements to compensate for the body’s inability to produce these digestive enzymes. However, make sure that you take them as per the prescribed dosage. If you experience stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or any other side effect, consult your doctor.
While the metabolic enzymes play a vital role in the digestive process and the consequent absorption of nutrients, there are certain enzymes that are present in certain foods. Including the sources of these natural digestive enzymes to one’s diet can provide the body with these enzymes. Overcooking such foods can affect the levels of enzymes in these foods, which is why these food items should not be overcooked.
A digestive enzyme deficiency can certainly have an adverse effect on one’s health. While lifestyle changes can help lower the risk of most digestion-related ailments, medical help must be sought for proper diagnosis and treatment. People affected by chronic indigestion should especially seek medical help.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.