Before we discuss the topic of lipase, it’s first important to know what enzymes are and why we need them. Enzymes are biological molecules that are essential in speeding up reaction rates within cells. Additionally, they are fundamental for life and a variety of important functions within the body such as proper digestion. They also help break down larger, more complex molecules into smaller sized molecules such as glucose. This action then allows the body to use it as fuel. Additionally, enzymes also help in the copying of DNA. Therefore, each time a cell replicates itself, enzymes help to unwind the DNA coils and copy the information into the new cell. They also help to break down the toxins within the body so they are expelled quickly and safely.
When it comes to the enzymes associated with digestion, there are four main types, each offering a specific function. One of those four is called lipase. Although most healthy adults produce enough lipase on their own, there are still some people who need additional supplementation. That’s where digestive enzyme supplements like these come in handy. For reference, here is a quick breakdown of the major kinds of digestive enzymes and each of their major functions in the body.
- Lipases separate fatty acids from the fats and oils in our diet.
- Proteases or peptidases split proteins into smaller pieces called peptides and amino acids.
- Amylases separate carbohydrates sugars and other starchy foods into things like glucose.
- Nucleases split nucleic acids into nucleotides, and are the basic building blocks of both DNA and RNA. They are also crucial for cell multiplication and restoration.
What is Lipase?
The word “lipase” comes from the Greek word “lipos”, which means “fat”. Lipase is an enzyme that is created naturally by the pancreas and is also found in the stomach and the mouth. When you eat something that contains fat, the fat does not get absorbed into the body in its natural state. That’s where the lipase comes into play because its purpose is to break down those fatty substances (lipids) into smaller parts so for better absorption into the intestines.
Have you ever heard the term “good fats” as opposed to bad ones? Well, a large part of that distinction has to do with how easily different kinds of fats are broken down by the body and whether or not they convert into sugar. That process is reliant on a strong population of enzymes, in particular lipase. For the most part, fats are thought to be the main reason for many health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. However, there are many good forms of fat that are essential for good organ and cell function.
It is important to maintain a healthy diet that contains healthy fats, as they may ensure the pancreas does not become deficient in lipase enzymes. If these enzymes become deficient, digestive disorders like indigestion and heartburn may start to appear.
Although normal production for lipase occurs in the pancreas, many people experience a deficiency due to digestive imbalances or pancreatic disease. However, taking antibiotics is also a common cause of digestive enzyme imbalance. For that reason, many doctors recommend supplementing digestive enzymes immediately following the completion of an antibiotic course. The purpose of this is to replenish the gut bacteria and enzymes that the antibiotic treatment eliminates.
Lipase is famous for its ability to help the body break down fats, which helps with digestion and enhances the nutritional value of many high-fat foods such as pistachios, avocados, eggs, fish, and chia seeds. However, if you tend to eat an unhealthy diet full of trans and saturated fats like those found in fast food and processed meats, lipase has a harder time breaking down the fat and leads to weight gain or even obesity. So, a good level of lipase isn’t a “get out of jail free card” for eating unhealthy food!
There are at least three different kinds of lipase for you to know. Included among them are hepatic lipase, gastric lipase, and pharyngeal lipase. Let’s spend a little time to break down each of these.
Hepatic lipase is the digestive enzyme that is created in the liver and is found in bile. It’s super important for maintaining normal levels of cholesterol.
As its name suggests, gastric lipase is the enzyme that secrets in the stomach. Its primary function is to digest fatty acids. Of special importance is in newborn babies because it is the enzyme most responsible for breaking down fat that is found in the mother’s milk. Poor gastric lipase function can lead to bad absorption of lactose, otherwise known as lactose intolerance.
The pharyngeal lipase is produced in the salivary glands in the mouth and helps to break down fatty acids as soon as they are inside the mouth. This process continues as the food and fatty acids travel through the pharynx and down the esophagus.
To ensure good digestion and cellular function, it is important that the body maintain healthy levels of lipase. Most people do not need additional lipase supplementation, but those that find themselves with lower levels of lipase may consider it, especially if they may have certain health issues.
Healthy levels of lipase can help keep you fit and healthy in a variety of ways. Most notably, lipase helps to prevent weight gain and curb obesity by breaking down fat throughout the body. Additionally, it helps to streamline the digestive process and enhances the nutritional value of the healthy fats you get from whole foods. Contrary to popular belief, fats are an important part of our diet. This is particularly true for healthy brain function since your brain is made up of nearly 60% fat.
Helps with Indigestion
Lipase also helps with the symptoms of indigestion. Things like bloating, flatulence, and the feeling of being overly full are all symptoms of a high-fat, diet. These undesirable side effects may also be related to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Eases Symptoms of Certain Diseases
As mentioned before, healthy people produce sufficient amounts of lipase in their bodies. However, certain things might throw your lipase levels off regardless of your diet. This is because there are people who suffer from certain health conditions like cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. In fact, having these diseases make it incredibly hard to maintain healthy lipase levels due to no fault of their own. For many patients of these kinds of ailments, taking a lipase supplement might help mitigate symptoms and bring them temporary relief.
Although lipase does help with certain illnesses and diseases, it’s also important to remember that even the most healthy people need to maintain a good level of digestive enzymes in their stomachs and vital organs. So don’t think of lipase as something you should only take if you are sick or are suffering from some chronic ailment. In fact, the vast majority of users of digestive enzymes and probiotic supplements are healthy and are taking those products as a means to promote good digestion and maintain good overall health. It also helps maintain a good level of enzymes in your system. Doing so ensures a smoother digestive process and supports the absorption of essential nutrients.
Cystic fibrosis is a serious and chronic condition that causes the body to produce a large amount of thick, sticky mucus, which severely affects the pancreas. The mucus blocks the enzymes created in the pancreas from reaching the intestines, which leads to several negative effects and health issues. A person with this condition may benefit from a lipase supplement to help boost the nutritional value from the food they eat and to help your gut enzymes break through the mucus and do their jobs properly.
Celiac disease is at the forefront in recent years as the popularity and prevalence of gluten-rich foods take over the western diet. Many people are discovering that what they think is bloating or an allergic reaction to gluten is actually a celiac disease. By taking a lipase supplement, it may also help improve issues related to celiac disease. There has been extensive research that suggests children whoa re given a lipase supplement might see an improvement in their weight as well as the rate at which their bodies take in and absorb nutrients. So while it won’t suddenly allow you to eat a loaf of bread or a cheese pizza, lipase might help alleviate certain symptoms associated with this increasingly common disease.
If you are having issues with your gallbladder, or if you’ve previously had gallbladder removal for any number of reasons, lipase supplementation may be very helpful for you. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped pouched situated behind the lobes of the liver. Its function is to store up cholesterol-rich bile that is secreted from the liver, and that bile is then used to digest fatty food. Taking a lipase supplement combined with a healthy diet full of good fats will help ensure that those fats are properly digested and that your gallbladder is functioning optimally.
Cholesterol Levels & Cardiovascular Health
Lipase may help with a healthy cholesterol level and cardiovascular health. As mentioned earlier, one of the major roles of digestive enzymes is to maintain a balance between high-density lipoprotein or HDL (commonly known as the “good cholesterol” and its counterpart low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (known as the “bad cholesterol”).
A deficiency in lipase may lead to higher, unhealthy levels of LDL in the blood. That’s because lipase is needed to ensure that fats are broken down and digested properly. Then, when the levels of triglycerides in the blood reach 1,000mg, a person may develop pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas created when enzymes begin digesting the pancreas itself. Pancreatitis also leads to a whole host of other conditions, not the least of which is heart disease. Obesity and type II diabetes are also linked to high triglyceride levels, which means that supplementing with lipase and working hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle will help keep those numbers at a healthy level.
The Lipase Test
Lipase testing is done via a blood test and your doctor usually order it if he or she suspects that any of your symptoms may be related to poor digestion or the lack of digestive enzymes. Therefore, if you’re having any of the acute or chronic symptoms we’ve covered so far, or if you find yourself getting sick more often than usual, it may be worth asking your doctor about a lipase test.
There is no standardized dosage for lipase supplementation since it depends on the type of supplement you take. Many times, lipase is part of a digestive enzyme complex that works to flood your stomach and digestive system with new, good enzymes. However, if you do prefer to take a solo lipase supplement, you should look for a capsule form with a total daily dose of 6,000 LU. That number is spread out across 3 dosages per day and lipase must be taken on an empty stomach up to 30 minutes before a meal.
Lipase Supplement Side Effects
For most people, taking a lipase supplement is totally safe and doesn’t create any noticeable side effects. However, in rare cases, or situation of extreme low-levels of digestive bacteria, you may notice more of an effect right after taking your dose. Common digestive issues like nausea, diarrhea, and cramping might happen. Additionally, you will almost certainly notice yourself going to the bathroom more regularly and easily. Someone who suffers from cystic fibrosis should note the precautions of lipase supplementation as it may make the symptoms worse. If you feel like that is the case, stop taking the lipase and talk to your doctor right away. Some people may also have an allergic reaction to lipase supplements since they may contain ingredients derived from animal sources, including pigs. On that note, if you are a strict vegetarian or a vegan, be sure to fully read the product descriptions before taking your lipase supplement.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.