I didn’t try digestive enzymes in our sons’ biomedical treatment until a year into the gf/cf diet. I wish I had started earlier, because, boy oh boy, did they help! Our kids guts are damaged and need help in the repair process. But to assist in that, digestive enzymes are needed to completely break down the foods and peptides for several reasons: to reap the all the nutrients in the food, and so the bad bacteria or yeast don’t have more food to eat and grow on.
Some Digestive Enzyme Facts:
- Enzymes are proteins made by cells in our bodies and all living organisms.
- Enzymes exist in all raw food. All raw foods, including meats, have some enzyme activity.
- The more raw food you eat, the less digestive enzymes your body needs to produce.
- Cooking or other types of processing destroys enzyme activity.
- Digestive enzymes, used properly, can provide a substantial benefit to most everyone, especially those consuming a great deal of cooked or processed food.
Digestive enzymes helped both of my sons. One had constipation and the other maldigestion and malaborption. I was trying everything to treat the constipation and adding enzymes was the ticket. Once better digestion was happening, his gut started to heal with all the other gut healing measures I talk about on my Gut page. And the maldigestion/malaborption was corrected with enzymes. My sons started to feel better and behaviors improved.
Enzyme dosing is by the amount and type of food eaten and not based on age or weight. A good plan is to start with part of one capsule of one product per significant meal or snack. Then increase to one capsule, then start in a similar way with other enzyme products. My sons take Houston Enzymes TriEnza with DPP4 Activity. My son with autism doesn’t tolerate phenols well, so when a meal has a higher phenolic load (i.e. brocolli, tomatoes) is served, I give him one TriEnza and one No Phenol enzyme. Otherwise they take two TriEnza enzymes with each meal. There are a lot of good brands of digestive enzymes available (such as Houston, Kirkman, Klaire, Enzymedica) and some offer chewable tablet forms. I know that TriEnza is now available in a chewable, which makes it easier for those kids that can’t swallow capsules.
Enzymes will mix with food or beverages. Just pull the capsule open, and empty it out. If you use less than an entire capsule, you can just click the capsule back together and use the rest of the enzymes later. The taste and smell of enzyme products vary a great deal, which you may want to mask with fruit juice, ketchup, etc. Other products have no taste or smell at all. Please be careful to not inhale the enzyme powder, and to clear any residual enzyme powder from the mouth and throat area with additional food or beverage. Just make sure your child wipes their mouth after taking the enzymes.
Do I Need Enzymes While on GF/CF Diet?
One reason for enzyme use while on the gf/cf diet is to completely digest all foods (especially sugars from carbohydrate foods) to reduce or shut off the food supply for dysbiotic flora (aka: bacteria/yeast). Another reason is the dietary shift itself. When you exclude a class of foods (i.e. gluten/dairy), another class or other classes are usually increased. I found that since one son was allergic to corn, when we went gf/cf, I replaced all corn and wheat products with rice and potato. He started having immune responses to rice and potato. And when we eliminated a source of protein with dairy/casein free, they ate more meat and poultry. That made more demands on protein digesting enzymes and provoked maldigestion. The last reason for adding digestive enzymes is to compensate for mistakes in the gf/cf diet or cross contamination issues.
If you’re not familiar with the types of enzymes and what they digest, here is a summary of the main digestive enzymes:
- Amylase – breaks down carbohydrates, starches, and sugars (found in fruits, vegetables, potatoes and a lot of snack foods)
- Protease – breaks down proteins (found in meats, eggs, cheese, and nuts)
- Lipase – breaks down fats (found in most dairy products, meats, oils, and nuts)
- Cellulase – breaks down cellulose, plant fiber (will also breakdown time-release medications that use a form of cellulose in their outer coating)
One digestive enzyme that tends to be insufficient in a lot of ASD kids, as well as kids with ADHD, is DDP4 (dipeptidyl peptidase-IV). This enzyme is found in the gut and is responsible for breaking a bond between amino acids in peptides formed during protein digestion. Problems occur when there is a lack of DDP4 which causes incomplete digestion of the gluten (wheat) and casein (dairy) molecules, leaving a mischievous peptide. In the case of damaged or leaky guts, these peptides called gluteomorphin (gluten) and caseomorphin (casein) can pass into the blood, where they do harm because they evoke an immune response. They can also mimic endorphins that cause changes in perception, mood, and behavior. This is one reason why the gf/cf (gluten free/casein free) diet is so effective in reducing behaviors in kids with autism. It’s the elimination of the offending peptides from the diet.
Digestive enzymes have been one of the integral parts of my child’s biomedical treatment and instrumental in healing his gut.
A wonderful resource about digestive enzymes are Karen DeFelice’s books, “Enzymes for Autism and Other Neurological Conditions” and “Enzymes: Go With Your Gut”. Her website is a treasure trove off wonderful information and can be found at http://www.enzymestuff.com/