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General Health

What are Pancreatic Enzymes? | How They Support Healthy Digestion


Pancreatic enzymes are often recommended as digestive support supplements. In this post, we will explain exactly what these enzymes are, and how they support healthy digestion and nutrient absorption.*

What are pancreatic enzymes for?

Pancreatic enzymes are key players in normal digestion. The enzymes protease, lipase, and amylase are secreted by the pancreas when we eat a meal. They are essential to the breakdown of food and the absorption of its nutrients as it arrives in the small intestine.*

What are pancreatic enzymes used for?

Pancreatic enzyme supplements may be recommended when people have symptoms related to the incomplete breakdown of particular proteins, carbohydrates or fats during the digestive process. These may include gas, bloating, cramping, occasional diarrhea or constipation, or food intolerances.

(Note: food intolerances differ from anaphylaxis or IgE-mediated food allergies, which can be life threatening. A licensed healthcare provider can help distinguish between the two with skin scratch testing for allergies.)

Additionally, specific conditions such as cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis may also produce symptoms requiring enzymatic support, which should be overseen by a physician. Consult a medical provider if you experience symptoms of malabsorption such as chronic diarrhea, unintended weight loss, or steatorrhea (bulky, pale, foul-smelling stool which may float or appear greasy).

What pancreatic enzyme is necessary to digest fat?

Lipase is the pancreatic enzyme necessary to digest fat, while protease breaks down proteins, and amylase acts on carbohydrates.

In addition to lipase, Ox Bile extract may further support digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine. The combination of Pancreatin & Ox Bile may be appropriate for those needing additional support for assimilation of fats and fat-soluble vitamins, by supplementing the body’s own production of bile. This may be especially indicated for anyone without a gall bladder and therefore unable to release a bolus of stored bile in response to a fatty meal, or people who have poor fat absorption or deficiency of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

What is the best way to take pancreatic enzymes?

Recommendations vary, but pancreatic enzymes that are not enteric coated are most effective when taken shortly after a meal, to protect from breakdown by stomach acid. When selecting pancreatic enzymes, it’s important to note that full strength pancreatin is the preferred form, to ensure it is free of lactose – a commonly used filler which can aggravate digestive complaints in the large proportion of the adult population who are lactose intolerant.

Vital Nutrients offers an extensive line of professional quality digestive support supplements including full-strength, lactose free Pancreatic Enzymes and Pancreatin & Ox Bile.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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