What Are Pancreatic Enzymes?


Posted By Author on May 20, 2021

The pancreas secretes enzymes to aid in digestion, breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Because the pancreas plays such an important role, our specialists here at Charleston GI have provided more details about it here.

Different Pancreatic Enzymes & Their Purpose

Each pancreatic enzyme serves a specific purpose, as detailed below.

  • Lipase: Pairs with bile from the liver to break down fat molecules.
    • Shortage may result in diarrhea and/or fatty stools as well as a deficiency of necessary fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Protease: Breaks down protein to help keep bacteria, yeast and protozoa out of the small intestine.
    • Shortage increases patients’ risk of intestinal infections, allergies and/or the formation of toxic substances (due to incomplete protein digestion).
  • Amylase: Also found in saliva, it breaks carbohydrates down into more easily absorbed sugars.
    • Shortage may result in diarrhea due to undigested starch found in the colon.

A properly-functioning pancreas also produces hormones that help balance your blood sugar levels and appetite.

Why Take Pancreatic Enzymes?

Pancreatic enzyme supplements may benefit those who have:

  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Large pancreatic cysts
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Long-term use of certain medication
  • Cystic fibrosis

Ask your doctor about pancreatic enzymes if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Indigestion or cramping after meals
  • Excessive gas
  • Floating and/or greasy, fatty stools
  • Diarrhea or loose stools
  • Unintentional weight loss

How To Take Pancreatic Supplements

Pancreatic supplements are often taken with food, at the beginning of meals or snacks. To ensure peak absorption, avoid taking enzymes with the following:

  • Hot beverages (coffee, tea, etc)
  • Hot soups
  • Dairy products (milk, ice cream, yogurt, etc)
  • Antacids containing magnesium or calcium (Tums, Rolaids, etc)

Instead, take enzymes with foods like applesauce and pureed fruits/vegetables that contain low levels of soluble fiber. Many enzyme capsules are enteric-coated to avoid breakdown in the stomach, so do not crush them or grind them up. If you are taking more than one enzyme, try to space them out.

Constipation is the most common side effect associated with pancreatic enzymes. They may also cause diarrhea, abdominal pain or nausea. Be sure to stop taking pancreatic supplements if you exhibit any signs of allergic reaction. Because recommended doses vary, be sure to consult your GI doctor in Charleston!

What Is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, occurring when the body’s digestive enzymes attack the pancreas. Severe abdominal pain is often the result, along with diarrhea, body weight loss and malnutrition. If symptoms do not improve, the condition is considered chronic – and is often associated with alcohol abuse. People with chronic pancreatitis may suffer long-term, serious health issues such as diabetes or malnutrition. If you are experiencing pancreatitis symptoms, consult your Charleston GI pancreatitis doctor today!

Talk To A Charleston GI Doctor Today

To learn more about pancreatic digestive enzymes, consult your trusted GI doctor in Charleston! Our healthcare professionals are here to help, equipped to provide relief from a range of GI conditions – and improve your quality of life.

No referral is needed, so get in touch today to schedule your appointment!