Recently a friend of mine started asking around if anyone had tried taking digestive enzymes for their IBS. The one she had come across was specifically for helping to digest gluten. I had no idea that this kind of product was available and started to have a look into it.

I knew that some people took Lactase for dairy intolerance but despite the fact that I don’t tolerate dairy products very well it has never been something I have really missed so I have not tried it (I can eat a bit of cheese, so I am happy). I also have heard of a product that you can get in the US to help digestion of beans, which I assume is also an enzyme product. The promise of help with gluten was a revelation! (The products do not seem to help much with Coeliac Disease, only gluten intolerance, though research is being done to develop enzyme treatments in future as far as I can gather – I have not done a lot of reading on this but just to be clear gluten intolerance is not at all the same as Coeliac Disease).

I found this website which has a lot of useful information on it, which I have not yet read much of, called Enzyme Stuff. I read on there that I should choose a product that has DPP-IV Activity (whatever that is!). The one I am trying has per capsule a 300mg blend of:

Dipeptidyl Peptidase IV (DPP-IV) SEB-Pro GR (trademark symbol) (Protease I, Protease II, Protease III, Protease IV, Protease V), Amylase I, Amylase II, Glucoamylase, Cellulase, HemiSEB (Hemicellulase), Alpha-Galactosidase, Xylanase), Lactase and Lipase.

The capsules are vegetarian which is nice.

It “supports the digestion of protein in gluten-containing cereal grains including wheat as well as casein-containing milk products and other high protein foods”.

As it has so many enzymes I am planning on testing it on a variety of foods that I struggle to digest, not just gluten and dairy products.

For the last 2-3 years I have not eaten or have rarely eaten (and with consequences!): Gluten containing grains, any other grains except rice and quinoa (which is technically a fruit they say), any fruit except peeled pears and avocados, any potato that is not freshly cooked and still hot, beans and pulses, certain tougher or fibrous or cruciferous vegetables, vegetarian protein products except tofu, eggs, dairy products except small amounts of cheese and chocolate (of course), salads… can’t think what else! I am vegetarian so I already do not eat meat and fish, so you can see how limited my diet is. I am lucky that nuts and seeds have been fine.

So far this is what I have done:

Firstly, I took a capsule every meal for nearly three days just to see what effect it would have on me while I continued to eat my usual “safe” diet. I did not want to be confused by any reaction to the tablets themselves, though this was unlikely as I chose these ones in particular as they don’t have any extra ingredients that might cause me trouble (some products actually contain gluten and other problematic things as well as the enzymes, which seems strange, though perhaps demonstrates product confidence!). Result: things were not perfect either before I started to take the enzymes or during those three days, but there was no real change.

On day 3 I had a tortilla wrap (soft white bread) with fillings that I would usually eat with rice and I knew were safe. Result: No major problem, I did have increased wind and activity especially the following evening and it stopped me sleeping as well as usual, especially as my bladder was more sensitive and there was a bit more discomfort than usual but not too painful. No constipation or diarrhea, nor did I feel ill in myself which is a common result for me of eating something strange.

On day 6 I ate an egg! This is a big deal for me as egg yolk has long been as issue for me. As the enzymes mention high protein meals, I thought it was worth a try. Result: again, some reaction but nothing unbearable. Much the same as above.

I waited a bit after that to check for constipation as eggs are bad for that, and also as had visitors I held off trying anything else in case of anti-social bodily behaviour, so -

Day 10 I went to a pub and had a cheese baguette with chips! Chips eaten out are a big problem for me as potato starches become indigestible (and cause trouble to me at least) when they have cooled, so anything like pub chips that are cooked in two stages are not good. The following day (gaining in confidence) I ate a cheese sandwich made from lovely granary bread with mayo and a little bit of red onion and lettuce. That was delicious! Result: That was three days ago and there has been no real issues for the increased risky foods all in one go, or for having them two days in a row!

It is early days and I need to do a lot more experimentation and also decide what changes to bowel habit I can live with and what is too much. There have been changes and I would not like them to be constant, or to be worse (if I ate normally it would potentially be much worse as most people eat gluten and other foods I am very sensitive to, at every meal). However I am really happy with how these first experiments have gone and especially that I do not feel much worse in myself. I am allowing for a period of readjustment to a change in diet as I have not eaten these foods for so long. I am still taking my anti-spasmodic tablets which I think are helping, but I know from trying a few different foods while just taking them that adding the enzymes has really made a difference as I was still having fairly marked reactions before I started to take them. I know it may seem like I am being over-cautious but I really have had very strong reactions to so many foods and have tried again and again to reintroduce foods back into my diet with no luck. This really has been so much better than I expected and I am looking forward to trying lots of different things and seeing where the limits lie. I doubt this will be a complete solution to my problems but I am really hopeful from these initial tests that it could be quite life-changing.

I suspect that I have a leaky gut and that the reason I often feel ill when my IBS flares up is that I am actually being poisoned as waste products “leak” back into my blood stream rather than being broken down as they should be. If enzyme supplements can help break these products down then this would be a big bonus for me. I have not felt this poisoned feeling at all! I might do another blog post on leaky gut issues as it is quite complex and I really should read more about it and see if there is anything else I can do to help myself improve/heal. I wonder if I should take a probiotic as well, I know it is recommended. I have taken them sporadically before. I also know that zinc is recommended and I do take a zinc supplement already.

I will read more about it all, and also perhaps try a different product next time to compare, as I have seen products listed for different issues and I need to research if any would be a better fit for my problems. If I can eat a more varied diet (and digest and get all the goodness out of what I eat) this can only be good for my health and also will allow me to go out to eat sometimes and even stay overnight somewhere without having to take my own food with me! This will mean a great deal to me and open up possibilities for occasional fun and sharing more things with my partner and friends. It will also help my partner if I can eat more convenience food occasionally as all my food has had to be cooked fresh (there are a few things I can eat as leftovers/reheated but not many). Also our menu at home, while tasty, has been very limited and I am sure she will enjoy a bit more variety as often there just is no time to make separate meals for each of us and my needs have dominated what we eat most of the time. Also if I eat less specialist foods our shopping bill might come down a bit. Well, it might help pay for the enzymes anyway.

So tomorrow is fresh pasta day! I can’t wait!

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