Principal Proposed Uses
Many foods can cause gassiness, including beans (legumes), broccoli, cabbage, onions, and whole grains. This occurs because these foods contain complex carbohydrates that are not entirely broken down in the digestive tract, and instead serve as food for intestinal bacteria. These bacteria produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide gas as they digest the carbohydrates. While everyone develops intestinal gas to some extent, certain people have an intolerance of complex carbohydrates and develop relatively more severe symptoms. 1 Use of alpha-galactosidase has been advocated as a treatment for both complex carbohydrate intolerance and ordinary gassiness. This enzyme helps break down complex carbohydrates. When taken as a supplement, it may enhance the digestive process and thereby deprive gas-producing bacteria of fuel to work on.
Alpha-galactosidase is ordinarily manufactured by the body and is not a nutrient. It is found in particularly high quantities in the yeast Aspergillus niger
, the source of commercial products.
A typical supplemental dosage of alpha-galactosidase provides 450 GalU ( galactosidase
units) per meal.
Therapeutic Uses Although alpha-galactosidase is widely marketed as an over-the-counter treatment to prevent intestinal gas , there is only limited evidence that it really works. In two preliminary double-blind, controlled trials enrolling a total of 39 people, use of alpha-galactosidase along with a meal of beans significantly reduced symptoms of excess gas. 2,3 Two other relevant trials were also small, and suffered from significant design flaws. 3,4 Larger and more strictly designed studies will be necessary to determine whether alpha-galactosidase is truly an effective treatment for reducing intestinal gas.