Can digestive enzymes help with gluten intolerance?
Yes, products that combine protein-digesting enzymes known as proteases and the specific gluten-digesting enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) can help. Here is a quick refresher. Gluten is the main protein complex primarily found in grains which include wheat, barley, spelt and rye. Many people have an intolerance to gluten along with casein, a protein found in milk. When ingested in intolerant individuals these proteins can produce gastrointestinal discomfort, especially gas and bloating.
Although the popular solution for gluten and casein intolerance is following a gluten-free, casein free diet, as well as eliminating the offending proteins will reduce discomfort, there are often hidden sources of gluten or casein in foods that can still lead to discomfort.
Many gluten free products are available in natural foods stores and even in mainstream supermarkets. Beneficial grains for replacement of gluten sources include amaranth, quinoa, and a variety of rice, such as brown, red, black and wild rice. Casein is found in milk and dairy products. Obviously, when avoiding gluten and casein reading food labels carefully is required.
Supplemental digestive enzyme preparations can help people tolerate lower levels of gluten or casein intake especially during the initial phase of gluten and/or casein avoidance. Look for products that provide dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV). This enzyme targets both gliadin and casein and is resistant to breakdown by other digestive enzymes. DPP-IV is thought to be one of the key enzymes responsible for the digestion of these proteins and is known to be found in lower amounts in the intestinal lining of individuals with gluten sensitivity and intolerance. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between the level of DPP-IV and intestinal damage in people with gluten sensitivity. In other words, the lower the DPP-IV the more significant the damage to the intestinal lining.
Preparations containing DPP-IV are often recommended to safeguard against any hidden sources of gluten.
Digestive complaints affect nearly one out of four people. In most cases, the symptoms reflect disturbed digestive function or food intolerance rather than an underlying disease. Functional gastrointestinal disorders include occasional indigestion or heartburn, functional dyspepsia, excessive flatulence, and the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Supporting digestion by using digestive enzyme preparations and other natural approaches is often the best route to elimination of these bothersome (and sometimes embarrassing) symptoms.