That helpful salesperson at the supplements counter may tell you that digestive enzymes will act as a kind of Roto-Rooter to remove clogged fecal matter that is keeping you irregular, and that you should spend ten times as much on enzymes as you spend on fiber to get results fast. Digestive enzymes actually do help some cases of constipation, and an enzyme called serratiopeptidase is likely to do the most good.
Sometimes the root cause of constipation is a condition called small intestine bacterial overgrowth. The duodenum, the stretch of the small intestine into which the stomach empties, is ordinarily relatively uninhabited. It contains “just” 10,000 bacteria in every milliliter of digested food. When constipation slows down the passage of food through the small intestine and colon below it, however, these bacteria can begin to multiply.
In severe constipation, bacteria can form a film over the lining of the small intestine. It is less able to absorb vitamins and minerals. If this film of bacteria grows into the colon, it is less able to absorb fats and amino acids and it cannot send bile salts back to the liver for recycling. Without bile salts, fat begins to clump in the large intestine. It forms especially foul-smelling floating stools. And because bacteria block the flow of fluids, the stool becomes dryer and harder to pass.
The digestive enzyme serratiopeptidase can break up the “glue” that holds bacterial biofilms to the lining of the intestines. Sometimes taking the enzyme yields remarkable results. There can a quick loss of weight—sometimes up to 20 pounds—as impacted stool is finally passed in bowel movement. The ability to absorb more nutrients can result in renewed energy. And removing the biofilm can also relieve abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, and heartburn.
The people who are most likely to benefit from serratiopeptidase are those who have peptic ulcer disease (which actually reduces stomach acid production) and regular users of antacids and medications for gastroesophageal disease. Enzymes are completely compatible with juicing. Just take the digestive enzyme before taking prune or pear juice for the initial cleanse, and use for up to two weeks while getting constipation under control. It's OK to take both probiotics and digestive enzymes at the same time, since probiotics do not form the kind of toxic biofilm that causes constipation problems.
Diabetics tend to get constipated because of damage to the vagus nerve, which times the movement of digested food through the digestive tract. If you have diabetes, you may benefit by also taking bromelain and/or papain just before every meal. These fruit enzymes help the stomach digest proteins and reduce the pressure and bloating that make the discomfort of constipation so much worse.