The gastro-intestinal system produces a wide range of enzymes that play a crucial role in the breakdown of food ingredients in to their constituent nutrients. These nutrients are then absorbed into the blood stream and play a vital role in generation of energy along with playing an important part in growth and development of the body.
Deficiency of the digestive enzymes may interfere with breakdown of food and limit the absorption of nutrients and vitamins by the body. The pancreas plays a decisive role in production of the majority of the digestive enzymes and deficiency of digestive enzymes can result in a wide range of symptoms.
Diarrhea, gaseous distention and steatorrhea are common symptoms associated with digestive enzyme deficiency. However depending upon the cause, the condition may be associated with upper epigastric pain, which may be intermittent in nature along with systemic symptoms like fever, tiredness and lethargy and weakness. Often due to failure of the body to absorb essential nutrients, the individual may also complain of unintentional weight loss.
Symptoms Of Digestive Enzyme Deficiency
Digestive Enzyme Deficiency results in failure to break down food in to their constituent nutrients. Further, it results in elimination of the undigested food through stools.The condition is associated with a wide range of symptoms,
- Inability to completely digest the ingested food results in partial breakdown of the food which in turn may result in formation of gases. These gases are responsible for gaseous distention and abdominal discomfort. The most common digestive enzyme condition is lactose intolerance, which results in inability of the intestine to break down milk and milk products into constituent sugar products.
- Diarrhea is another common symptom associated with digestive enzyme deficiency. Under normal conditions the water is reabsorbed by the intestine, however in absence of digestive enzymes, the water content of the stools tend to increase, which result in loose stools and diarrhea.
- Steatorrhea is also a condition which is characterized by fatty stools due to failure of the digestive system to absorb lipids and fats. This results in the fat constituents being eliminated in the stool. The most characteristic feature of Steatorrhea is floating stools, lots of oil in the stools and a foul and offensive odor.
What Causes Deficiency Of Digestive Enzymes?
Pancreas is the primary organ which is responsible for the release of these digestive enzymes into the digestive system. Any disorders affecting the pancreas can result in digestive enzyme deficiency.
- Acute Pancreatitis: A condition characterized by sudden-onset inflammation of the pancreas which affects approximately 210,000 people in the United States each year. Inflammation results in the enzymes to attack the pancreatic tissue itself which results in deficiency of the enzyme for digestive functions.
- Chronic Pancreatitis: A chronic inflammation of the pancreas is attributed to excessive consumption of alcohol and is associated with long term deficiency of digestive enzymes.
- Pancreatic Cancer: The cancer can originate in the pancreas or may be a result of a metastatic tumor from elsewhere. Pancreatic cancer can result in obstruction of the pancreatic ducts, which in turn result in failure to empty the enzyme into the digestive system.
- Gall stones: Gall stones can also result in digestive enzyme deficiency. Gall stones often obstruct the common bile duct, which is a common route for the bile salts and pancreatic enzymes to be released into the duodenum. This obstruction in turn can result in pancreatitis, which may further complicate the condition.