Amylase: Digestive Enzyme Supplement

Amylase

Digestive enzymes are essential to your health and longevity as they are what allows the body
to fully digest and absorb macronutrients such as fat, protein, and carbohydrates. When your
body lacks healthy digestive enzyme production and function, you’re prone to nutrient
malabsorption and indigestion symptoms, including:

  • Bloating
  • Lethargy
  • Malaise
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Chronic inflammation

Thus, it becomes increasingly important to supplement with digestive enzymes if you’re
experiencing indigestion or symptoms of nutrient malabsorption. Digestive enzymes may also
be useful for people who suffer from leaky gut, a debilitating condition in which the gut wall
deteriorates and undigested food particles “leak” into the bloodstream.

While there are many enzymes involved in the digestive process, amylase is particularly
important for those who consume a generous amount of starch. This article will take an in-depth
look at what amylase is, its benefits and possible risks, and where to buy digestive enzyme
supplements.

What is Amylase?

Amylase is an enzyme secreted primarily by salivary glands and the pancreas in order to help
your body breakdown starch – a polysaccharide found in thousands of foods, especially grains
and green plants. Since starch (amylose and amylopectin) is made up of many glucose units, it
is considered a complex carbohydrate. Amylase is also necessary for converting glycogen – the
main form of stored carbohydrate in the human body – into glucose.

What Does Amylase Do?

Amylase is initially secreted by salivary glands throughout the mouth when you consume
complex carbohydrates. However, amylase is deactivated once it reaches the highly acidic
environment of the stomach, so the pancreas produces a “second batch” of amylase to finish
breakdown the carbs in the small intestine.

The main role of amylase is to break down the starch/complex carbohydrates you consume into
disaccharides and trisaccharides, which are subsequently converted to monosaccharides
(glucose) in the intestine and absorbed into the bloodstream. Once glucose is liberated from
starch (or glycogen), glycolysis kicks in so your body can use those molecules to produce
energy in the form of ATP.

As you can imagine, if your body doesn’t produce enough amylase, it won’t be able to digest
and utilize the starch/complex carbohydrates you eat. Research suggests that impaired amylase
function can result in undigested carbohydrate fragments that initiate both intestinal and extra-
intestinal immune responses, which may cause excessive inflammation and leaky gut
syndrome. [1]

Thus, an amylase supplement comes in handy if you eat a higher amount of carbs, and your
body doesn’t break them down sufficiently. In general, those on the ketogenic diet shouldn’t#
need to use an amylase supplement, but they may benefit from other enzymes like proteases
and lipases (which we will touch on later).

Benefits of Amylase

The benefits of amylase are more or less exclusive to those who consume a generous amount
of starchy carbs in their diet. Enzymes are “assisting molecules,” and your body doesn’t need
them without having certain substrates to act on.

For instance, if you follow the keto diet, your body doesn’t produce as much amylase as
someone who eats 300+ grams of starch every day. Why would it? There’s significantly less
substrate (starch) for the amylase to break down on the keto diet than there is on a high-carb
diet.

Nevertheless, if you follow a high-carb diet, amylase may have a variety of benefits, including:

  • Ensuring proper digestion and absorption of complex carbohydrates and starch
  • Helping your body break down glycogen so that it can be converted to glucose and oxidized for energy
  • Reducing the symptoms and risk of leaky gut syndrome
  • Promoting nutrient digestion in people with pancreatic conditions, such as pancreatitis
  • Supporting muscle growth as part of a high-carb, muscle-building diet

It’s worthwhile to note that amylase has nothing to do with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Gluten is not a type of carbohydrate, but rather a group of proteins found in wheat/cereal grains.
Papain, however, has been a promising clinical intervention for helping patients overcome
gluten intolerance. [2] One study has even shown that athletes given a papain supplement had
reduced muscular soreness after training compared to those who took a placebo.

Does Amylase Help Digest Sugar?

The term “sugar” is usually used to identify monosaccharides, which are carbohydrates that only
contain one sugar unit. For example, dextrose is a simple sugar found in corn and chemically#
identical to glucose – the fundamental sugar found in the human body. Fructose (fruit sugar) is
also a monosaccharide.


identical to glucose – the fundamental sugar found in the human body. Fructose (fruit sugar) is
also a monosaccharide.

Starch, on the other hand, is a complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide) made up of thousands of
glucose units bonded together. Since starch is such a large substance (comparatively
speaking), amylase is needed to hydrolyze the bonds between those glucose units so that
separate into smaller molecules that are able to permeate the intestinal wall and absorbed into
the bloodstream.

Thus, the body doesn’t need to work as hard to digest dextrose and fructose since they are
already simple molecules that are easily absorbed through the intestine into the bloodstream.

This is why many bodybuilders and gym-goers slam a protein shake mixed with simple carbs
after their workout as it kickstarts the recovery process by increasing insulin levels and
replenishing muscle glycogen, both of which bolster muscle protein synthesis. [4]

Digestive Enzymes for Leaky Gut

The main roles of the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract, often referred to simply as “the gut”, are
to digest and absorb nutrients as well as help remove harmful compounds (i.e. toxins) from the
body. When the permeability of the gut lining in the small intestine is compromised, large
particles of undigested food and other noxious chemicals, like lipopolysaccharides (LPS), may
start to invade the bloodstream.

Why is this a bad thing, you ask?

The intestines naturally have some permeability, meaning they allow certain nutrients, like
glucose and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), to pass through the gut lining while also
stopping harmful substances, such as LPS and antigens, from exiting the intestine and entering
the bloodstream.

When the integrity of the gut’s permeability is compromised, harmful substances are more likely
to “leak” out of the intestines, thereby causing the body to initiate an immune response to these
“foreign” molecules. Hence the term “leaky gut” is used to describe this phenomenon.

Leaky gut symptoms often include:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Endocrine dysfunction
  • Mood disturbances and cognitive impairment
  • Lack of libido
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Poor sleep
  • Reduced energy
  • Blood sugar imbalance

Leaky gut syndrome can be very debilitating, often having an idiopathic nature. Yet, many
people experience this condition. The good news is that leaky gut can almost always be cured
(and avoided) through dietary modification and limited use of supplements.

If you’re suffering symptoms of leaky gut and suspect they are related to starch malabsorption,
an amylase supplement is a prudent intervention, along with a reduction of how much starch
you consume. You may even benefit by cutting out as much starch as possible and following the
keto diet
instead.

In addition, you should try to consume an ample amount of nutrients that support the gut
microbiome, particularly prebiotic fiber, and digestion-resistant starch. [5]

Where to Buy Amylase Supplements

Amylase supplements are somewhat of a novelty, and you’re not likely to find them at the
supermarket or a health food store. If you’re adamant about finding amylase offline, your best
bet is to look in a dietary supplement store.

Buying amylase supplements online is the most practical approach. In many cases, you won’t
find amylase sold as a standalone ingredient, but rather as one component of a digestive
enzyme supplement. Remember, amylase is just one of the many enzymes your body naturally
produces to fully digest the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates found in the food you eat.

Other notable enzymes that are key for nutrient digestion are pancreatic lipase and proteases.
In reality, most people will only benefit by using a digestive enzyme supplement in small doses
since they act somewhat like an “insurance policy” with regard to the food that you eat. If you’re
not taking excessive amounts of digestive enzymes, they are quite safe and well-tolerated.

Should you choose to use a pure amylase supplement, a total daily dose of 50,000 units is
generally more than enough.

If you prefer to buy a digestive enzyme supplement that includes enzymes for digesting fat and
protein, then look for a product that contains pancreatin.

Pancreatin is a mixture of digestive enzymes (lipase, amylase, and protease) that are normally
found in the pancreatic fluid.

Pancreatic lipase is the principal enzyme responsible for breaking down fats (triglycerides) that
we eat. As we age, the function and activity of lipase enzymes tend to decrease, which has
been shown in research to increase the risk of health complications like gallbladder flare-ups,
obesity, and elevated blood triglycerides. [6]

Moreover, when the body doesn’t properly break down fats, gastrointestinal aches, and pains
become common. Supplementing with lipase has been demonstrated to help relieve these
issues and promote healthy gut function. [7]

If you’re on the keto diet, a digestive supplement containing lipases and proteases is the best
choice. To learn more about proteases and why they are the most crucial enzymes for those on
a high-protein diet, be sure to check out our article on the Benefits and Uses of Papain.

References

  1. Zevallos, V. F., Raker, V., Tenzer, S., Jimenez-Calvente, C., Ashfaq-Khan, M., Rüssel, N., … &
    Schuppan, D. (2017). Nutritional wheat amylase-trypsin inhibitors promote intestinal inflammation via
    activation of myeloid cells
    . Gastroenterology, 152(5), 1100-1113.
  2. Mamboya, E. A. F. (2012). Papain, a plant enzyme of biological importance: a review. American
    Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 8(2)
    , 99-104.
  3. Dietrich, R.E., 1965. Oral proteolytic enzymes in the treatment of athletic injuries: a double-blind
    study
    . Pennsyl. Med. J., 68: 35-37.
  4. Proud, C. G. (2006). Regulation of protein synthesis by insulin.
  5. Gibson, G. R. (1999). Dietary modulation of the human gut microflora using the prebiotics
    oligofructose and inulin
    . The Journal of nutrition, 129(7), 1438S-1441S.
  6. Mukherjee, M. (2003). Human digestive and metabolic lipases—a brief review. Journal of Molecular
    Catalysis B: Enzymatic, 22(5-6)
    , 369-376.
  7. Delhaye, M., Meuris, S., Gohimont, A. C., Buedts, K., & Cremer, M. (1996). Comparative evaluation of
    a high lipase pancreatic enzyme preparation and a standard pancreatic supplement for treating exocrine
    pancreatic insufficiency in chronic pancreatitis
    . European journal of gastroenterology & hepatology, 8(7),
    699-703.
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