We often have people stop in and ask us what we recommend for acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease.) Many of these people are on some form of prescription or over-the-counter medication to suppress the production of hydrochloric acid in their stomach, and are looking for a more natural approach.
There are many reasons why a person may have digestive issues, and the digestive process is complicated – requiring a variety of enzymes to complete the task successfully. When food is allowed to remain in the stomach for a prolonged period it may putrefy and contribute to causing GERD and acid reflux. Undigested food can back up into the esophagus, causing damage during GERD attacks. Digestive enzymes provide the proper chemicals to break down food and move it effectively through your system.
The enzymes that your body needs to breakdown food are mainly produced in the pancreas. The enzymes and various digestive juices made in the pancreas are specialized in their action and each pancreatic enzyme works on the breakdown of a different food group. When the pancreas doesn’t provide enough enzymes to break down the food you eat properly, taking a digestive enzyme may help.
There are many digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas, but let’s focus on the big three involved in the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates:
PROTEASEThe pancreatic enzyme protease breaks down proteins. When proteins are not properly broken down, they remain in the stomach for an excessively long period and may cause acid reflux and other symptoms of GERD such as chest pain, belching, bloating and gas. Proteolytic enzymes are very important in digestion as they break down the peptide bonds in the protein to liberate the amino acids needed by the body.
LIPASELipase is the pancreatic enzyme responsible for fat breakdown. This includes the synthesis of all fats and triglycerides. Lipase hydrolizes lipids, the ester bonds in triglycerides, to form fatty acids and glycerol, thus making them more easily digested and absorbed by the intestines. Supplementing with lipase to aid in fat digestion may help with treating Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and indigestion.
AMYLASEAmylase helps with carbohydrate and starch digestion and the primary source in the body is the pancreas. Amylase digests carbohydrates (polysaccharidse) into smaller disaccharide units, eventually converting them into monosaccharides such as glucose. A deficiency in amylase may prevent you from digesting sugars properly. This deficiency is one of the main causes of acid reflux and symptoms of GERD. When sugars don’t digest properly they can ferment in the stomach causing undesirable symptoms.
If you’re suffering from acid indigestion or GERD and want to try a more natural approach, stop in and talk with us about digestive enzymes. Often, supplementing with these before meals can help aid in the digestion process and may lessen your symptoms considerably. In an upcoming post, I’ll be discussing the benefits of using probiotics in conjunction with digestive enzymes to restore normal bacterial flora to your digestive tract.
Michael Lenz RPh, is a partner in Fallon Wellness Pharmacy of Saratoga. He has over 10 years of experience in custom compounding. He has received extensive training in Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) and Adrenal Fatigue. He is currently enrolled in the Institute of Functional Medicine’s Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner Program.