Everything You Need to Know About Lipase
Our bodies produce tons of natural enzymes that have their own responsibilities within our bodies. One such enzyme is lipase. This enzyme is essential for our digestive health, more specifically, for breaking down fats for absorption.
Many of us produce a decent amount of lipase so we’re able to get the nutrients we need from food, but it doesn’t hurt to give our digestive health a little support so we can make sure we’re getting all the nourishment we can get! We can supplement lipase and other gut-healthy nutrients to help our body function at its fullest.
We’re here today to take a deeper look at lipase and share everything that you should know.
What Exactly is Lipase?
Lipase is an enzyme that specifically targets the breaking down of fats during digestion so that the intestines can absorb them.
Our bodies naturally produce lipase through the stomach, pancreas, and mouth. In most cases, we naturally produce enough lipase, but there are times when our bodies simply don’t provide enough. Specifically, people who face auto-immune diseases like Crohn’s, Celiac, and cystic fibrosis, may not be able to produce enough lipase to get the nutrients they need from their food.
Lipase is designed to work with insulin and glucose from the pancreas. While the duties of each of these is different, they all work together to regulate blood sugar levels as well as break down sugar starches and certain proteins for our bodies to absorb amino acids from them.
If there is any suspicion that lipase is not being produced as it should be, most doctors will order a lipase test, which we will talk about more later in this guide.
Apart from the lipase our bodies produce naturally, it can also be found in various plants, animals, molds, and bacteria. It has been known to be used for medicinal purposes as well.
Benefits and Uses of Lipase
Chances are you won’t just walk into your nearest drug store and purchase a bottle of lipase tablets. You are more likely to find it through food sources or through digestive health supplements
The most common uses of lipase include helping with:
- Gastrointestinal health
- Aid in the development and growth of premature babies
There are a number of enzyme products out there designed to support pancreatic function. These often contain lipase within them but they are generally not going to include enough lipase to provide the same benefit as a digestive health supplement would.
Ultimately, the primary benefit of lipase is to break down fat, which aids in the digestive process as a whole.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these benefits we have listed.
Supporting Digestive Health and Relieving GI Symptoms
While lipase is not necessarily something used by itself, it is an enzyme that is contained within other supplements. Indigestion and heartburn relief is perhaps one of the most popular aids of lipase and it’s often paired with other alleviating ingredients and gut-focused enzymes.
Since it works to help break down fats for digestion, it also tends to ease symptoms of indigestion and heartburn that are caused when your body struggles to digest and break down certain foods.
Helping Premature Babies Grow & Develop
Another substantial benefit of lipase that is often not highlighted is its ability to help nurture premature babies. Did you know that breast milk contains lipase? This is an enzyme that formula simply can’t provide.
The lipase in breast milk serves the same purpose for babies as it does for us -- it allows for the breakdown of fats so nutrients can get absorbed, a critically important function that premature babies desperately need.
It is typically not recommended to give lipase to any child under the age of 12. There are times in which a medical professional may recommend treatment using lipase but this would be following their recommendations and supervision.
There are several factors that may affect the dosage of lipase. If you are taking a supplement like a prebiotic or probiotic that contains lipase, the appropriate amount of lipase has already been measured out for you and all you really have to do is follow the instructions on the bottle for the supplement as a whole.
Consult with your primary care physician anytime you add a new supplement to your health and wellness routine, especially if you’re already taking other supplements or are currently on prescription medication.
Side Effects of Using Lipase
There is limited information to truly understand the side effects of taking just lipase. Since lipase is typically taken as part of a whole supplement, there are few indicators to determine what the side effects are that are directly related to lipase.
Here are some known side effects of using a lipase, protease, amylase supplement (one of the most common combinations):
- Abdominal pain and cramps
While side effects are possible, for the most part, this particular supplement combo produces little to no side effects and is generally well-tolerated.
The Lipase Test
If you or your medical professional are concerned that your body is not producing enough lipase, your doctor can order a lipase test. The lipase test is used to determine how much lipase is in your blood.
The test can be used for monitoring purposes or because you are experiencing symptoms that relate to inflammation of the pancreas. This would be directly related to your lipase levels. Some of those symptoms include:
- Severe pain in the abdomen or back
- Loss of appetite
The test is also commonly used if you are known to suffer from pancreatitis. Here are some of the conditions that a lipase test might specifically be used for:
- Peritonitis (abdominal wall inflammation)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pancreatic cysts
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
How Does the Lipase Test Work?
If your doctor decides to run a lipase test, there’s nothing you have to do to prepare in advance. It is a standard blood test that can be administered at any time.
Some studies indicate that the results are most accurate if the patient has fasted for 8-10 hours but it is not necessarily required for best results. You should confirm with your doctor whether or not they’d like you to fast.
Healthy Lipase Levels
People over the age of 16 with healthy lipase levels will typically test anywhere between 10-73 units per liter. Anywhere in this range is generally an acceptable range of lipase levels.
Lipase levels below this range might be an indicator of pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis. Lipase levels that are above this range could be an indicator of pancreatitis or even pancreatic cancer. High levels sometimes indicate bowel obstructions, gastrointestinal ailments, or an ulcer.
Levels, however, are only indications, and you should not try to self-diagnose based on the results of a single lipase taste. Have your doctor interpret your results and have open communication with them so you can stay informed.
Lipase plays an important role in our bodies that helps us to absorb the nutrients we need from the food we eat. There are benefits to taking supplements that contain lipase, particularly if you are known to have some of the indicators or perhaps suffer from ailments like heartburn and indigestion.