The Gallbladder and the Role of the Enzyme - Lipase
Our digestive system relies on enzymes for food digestion and the absorption of nutrients, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. This digestive process is also known as ‘metabolism’.
When we are young, our metabolism is incredibly robust – we can eat heavy, fat-laden foods and still wake up feeling active and energised. By the age of 30, our digestive abilities naturally start to decline and our metabolism slows down. Once we reach 40 and beyond, losing weight can become more difficult and food intolerances can develop - just at the time that hormonal changes are slowing our digestive system even further.
In addition to ageing, modern lifestyles can also work against us. Things like more and longer periods of exposure to artificial light, disrupted sleeping patterns, higher and more persistent stress levels and an increasing exposure to chemicals, pesticides and preservatives in food – all put more pressure on our digestive system. It then has to work harder, with less resources, to process and detoxify our meals.
Early signs of digestive stress can manifest as excessive wind, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach cramps and heartburn. Later, those same digestive problems will evolve into more systemic problems such as migraine headaches, eczema, rashes and a whole plethora of other symptoms. Many of these nutrient-deficiency signs, may never be recognisable as being related to digestive health issues.
Our gallbladder is a critical feature of our digestive system. If it has to be surgically removed, this can pose a major challenge for digestion.
The Gallbladder and Lipase
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that sits below the liver. Between meals, it stores a highly alkaline fluid, called bile. This bile is secreted by our liver. When we eat, the gallbladder contracts to release bile salts into the intestines. This creates a sudden increase in pH levels - from neutral to highly alkaline – which activates the lipase enzyme and kills bacteria in the digestive tract. When lipase enzymes are activated, they get to work on dietary fats – breaking them down into microscopic lipids. Once small enough, these lipids, such as Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamins D, E and K can be absorbed by the body.
Fats are used to nourish our nervous system, brain and hormonal systems, to support our immune system and remove toxins. If our gallbladder is not functioning optimally, we lose the ability to process the fats we eat. Although some fat digestion will occur without bile, key nutrients such as A, D, E and K are totally dependent on lipase enzymes for absorption. These tend to be or primary dietary source of critical immune, detoxification and healing nutrients.
If you have had your gallbladder removed, your doctor may have already prescribed enzymes to support fat digestion. If they haven’t – you may find that supplementing with a lipase enzyme alongside your meals could deliver a host of benefits.
Signs of poor fat digestion
Signs of poor fat digestion are much more subtle and harder to spot than the rapid digestive reactions that are common with carbohydrate related digestive health problems.
- Delayed onset digestive issues
Fats are the last in the queue when it comes to the digestive system. Problems associated with digesting fats, may take up to 3 hours to manifest after eating; unlike carbohydrate digestion, where issues occur much sooner.
- Floating sticky or shiny stools
A healthy bowel motion should evacuate your body with little effort, pain or cramping; it should be sausage shaped, then sink slowly to the bottom of the toilet bowl. For those who have problems digesting fats, their stools may float, or stick to the sides of the bowl; they may appear shiny or leave an oily sheen on the toilet water.
- Low Vitamin D - despite supplementation
Fortunately, testing Vitamin D levels is easy, with many low-cost, simple fingerprint tests widely available. It is such a critical nutrient for good health, that GP’s may test for Vitamin D on a routine blood test. If you know that you are low on vitamin D, despite supplementation – it may be due to inactive lipase enzymes.
- Difficulty losing weight
When dietary fats are poorly metabolised (or not metabolised at all) – our body is not able to use the calories that they provide. This causes our blood sugar to become unstable, which triggers weight loss resistance. This may also be accompanied by carbohydrate cravings – as the body tries to create its own fats, from the dietary sugars it gets from carbohydrate digestion.
- A history of Gallbladder problems
If you have ever had gallstones, high LDL cholesterol, or have had your gallbladder removed, then it’s highly likely that you will have problems digesting fats. This is because your gallbladder plays a critical role in fat digestion.
What should you do if you think you have a fat digestion problem?
If you feel that fat digestion may be an issue for you, supplementing with an enzyme that contains a high amount of lipase can help to restore it. Most of Enzymedica’s digestive enzyme blends contain some lipase, but LypoGold has a very high and potent amount of lipase to specifically target fat digestion.
If your digestive symptoms are causing you worry, its best to consult a medical professional who can investigate further.