- Alpha-galactosidase is a glycoside hydrolase enzyme that hydrolyses the terminal alpha-galactosyl moieties from glycolipids and glycoproteins. It is encoded by the GLA gene.
- Anti-Gas: Alpha-galactosidase is widely marketed as an over-the-counter treatment to prevent intestinal gas.
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.
- Although alpha-glucosidase appears to be safe for people in normal health, there are potential concerns involving people with diabetes as well as those with a rare condition named galactosemia.
- Alpha-glucosidase breaks down complex carbohydrates into easily absorbed sugars. This may raise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Drugs that block alpha-glucosidase (alpha-glucosidase inhibitors) have proven benefit for people with diabetes. One study found that use of alpha-glucosidase supplements reduced the effectiveness of the diabetes drug acarbose, an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor drug. For this reason, people with diabetes who are using alpha-glucosidase inhibitors should avoid alpha-glucosidase supplements. In addition, it is theoretically possible that alphaglucosidase might increase blood sugar levels in people with diabetes who are not taking alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, but this has not been thoroughly evaluated.
- People with the genetic condition galactosemia should also avoid alphagalactosidase as it could, in theory, worsen symptoms of the disease.
- Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
- If you are taking the drugs acarbose (Precose) or miglitol (Glyset) for treatment of diabetes, use of alpha-galactosidase may decrease their effectiveness.
- source: “Alpha-galactosidase”, NYU Langone Medical Center, web article, www.med.nyu.edu/
- Source: Levine B, Weisman S. Enzyme replacement as an effective treatment for the common symptoms of complex carbohydrate intolerance. Nutr Clin Care . 2004;7:75–81.
- Source: Solomons NW, Vettorazzi L, Grazioso C. Use of an oral alpha-galactosidase to control gastrointestinal symptoms from legume oligosaccharides in bean-intolerant subjects: a doubly masked, controlled therapeutic trial. Clin Res . 1991;39:428A.