In most cases, the body produces enough lipase to handle fat metabolism, but in some cases, a person may have a lipase deficiency. Like all digestive enzymes, lipase is essential to the proper absorption of nutrients from food.
Lipase supplements are available in several forms and are thought to help people who cannot easily digest fats because their bodies do not make enough lipase on their own.
Supplements are typically made from animal enzymes and sometimes from plants.
They are often combined with protease, the enzyme responsible for protein metabolism and amylase, which breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Lipase supplements may be helpful for people with certain conditions related to fat metabolism, including celiac disease and other digestive disorders.
Celiac disease is an inability to digest gluten in the diet.
The condition often damages the intestinal tract and causes symptoms that include bloating, weight loss, abdominal pain and lethargy.
People with celiac disease must follow a gluten free diet. While lipase does not enable the body to metabolize gluten, it may help people with celiac disease by improving digestion in general.
Lipase supplements may also help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by reducing the symptoms of gastrointestinal distress often associated with this condition. Lipase supplements are recommended by some health care practitioners for people with food allergies or any condition in which digestion and absorption of nutrients is critical to health. This includes people with autoimmune diseases, cystic fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Sometimes, a condition known as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) results in insufficient production of lipase. People with pancreatitis often take lipase to manage the condition and treat symptoms, which usually include abdominal pain, bloating, fever, nausea and vomiting. If left untreated, pancreatitis can lead to the development of diabetes.
The recommended dosage of lipase for adults is 1 or 2 capsules equivalent to 6,000 lipase activity units (LUs) three times per day. The supplements should be taken on an empty stomach approximately 30 minutes before each meal.
Lipase supplements are not recommended for children under the age of 12 unless they are administered under the direction of a qualified medical professional. Also, people taking the medication Orlistat (aka Xenical or Alli) for treatment of obesity should be aware that this medication will interfere with the activity of lipase supplements.