Enzyme therapy for functional bowel disease-like post-prandial distress

J Dig Dis. 2018 Nov;19(11):650-656. doi: 10.1111/1751-2980.12655. Epub 2018 Sep 21.


Post-prandial gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal distension, flatulence, bloating and a feeling of fullness are common complaints of often unknown etiology and pathogenesis. There is a long history of trials reporting the successful use of products containing a variety of combinations of digestive enzymes including a number of randomized placebo-controlled trials. We provide a narrative review of studies describing the use of multi-digestive enzymes for symptoms consistent with irritable bowel syndrome. We describe clinical trials reported over the past 60 years including double-blinded randomized, placebo-controlled studies and recent trials that focused on post-prandial diarrhea consistent with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Disaccharidase deficiencies or deficiencies of other carbohydrate digesting enzymes were excluded. Worldwide studies have generally reported success with multi-enzyme preparations although none used a factorial design to identify subgroups or attempted to link specific symptom responses to specific components of therapy. Although there is a long history of the successful use of multi-enzyme preparations for post-prandial symptoms consistent with irritable bowel syndrome, long-term studies using validated scoring systems and factorial designs are needed to confirm the results for specific symptoms and the components of the combination drugs received.

Keywords: diarrhea; digestive enzyme; fecal elastase-1; irritable bowel syndrome; post-prandial distress; therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Enzyme Therapy / methods*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Pancreas / physiopathology
  • Postprandial Period


  • Gastrointestinal Agents