ANAHEIM, Calif. -- At the American Dietetic Association’s 2004 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Anaheim, Calif., Dr. Barbara Levine, a registered dietician and professor of nutrition at Cornell University, discussed the recommended treatment for Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance (CCI), a condition she recently identified in a paper published in the latest edition of Nutrition In Clinical Care.
Affecting millions of Americans, CCI is caused by a deficiency of the intestinal enzyme, alpha-galactosidase, which results in the incomplete digestion of complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, legumes, whole grains, cereals, nuts and seeds. Symptoms of CCI include flatulence, abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and constipation.
Levine, lead author of the professional paper and director of the Nutrition Information Center at Weill College of Medicine of Cornell University in New York, cites in the paper that enzyme replacement therapy is the only method that targets the root of the CCI problem, an enzyme deficiency. Enzyme replacement therapy requires that alpha-galactosidase preparations be taken at the same time as ingestion of each half-cup serving of complex carbohydrate foods. The enzyme alpha-galactosidase, currently found in Beano®, is the one option that prevents formation of CCI symptoms.
“Everyone should feel right, when they eat right. Now that Beano has been identified as the preventative treatment for CCI, Americans can go back to the garden and eat the healthy foods they need and want without embarrassing digestive episodes,” Levine said.
Effect of CCI
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that between 40 percent and 60 percent of Americans’ total calories come from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates (starches) and naturally occurring sugars. However, nearly 79 million Americans avoid eating these healthy foods because they can lead to uncomfortable and embarrassing digestive distress.
“I hear it in my practice everyday. CCI sufferers are most fearful about exhibiting the embarrassing symptoms of the condition, often to the extent of putting their favorite activities and social lives on hold. More importantly, those with CCI frequently avoid eating the nutritious foods they need, despite their protective health benefits,” Levine said. “Identifying CCI is important in helping patients to more easily discuss their symptoms with healthcare professionals and to tolerate healthy diets that aid in warding off serious conditions, such as heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.”
CCI sufferers should be aware that gastrointestinal discomfort following meals containing complex carbohydrates is common and that this discomfort can be alleviated through a variety of over-the-counter treatments. Unlike treatment options that may only relieve symptoms, enzyme replacement with alpha-galactosidase, which is found in Beano, is an effective option because it treats the cause of CCI and thereby prevents the symptoms.
“Symptoms of CCI are similar to those of more serious conditions like cardiac events, and individuals with CCI may seek medical attention for presumed more serious conditions,” Levine said. “This mistaken symptom association can lead to costly medical procedures, and misdiagnosis may result in patients taking drugs that are not treating the underlying cause of the condition. Increased awareness of CCI, its symptoms and enzyme replacement therapy is paramount to avoiding unnecessary treatment measures.”
Other treatment options are available, including diet and lifestyle changes, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and dietary supplements. Diet and lifestyle changes may help some people manage CCI, but others may continue to suffer, requiring additional treatment. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs may target specific symptoms associated with CCI, but do not allow the body to more easily digest complex carbohydrates, thus preventing the occurrence of CCI symptoms. Dietary supplements, such as peppermint, help soothe the digestive tract and may also be beneficial in preventing belching and in decreasing bloating after large meals. However, despite its efficacy, peppermint and other herbs do not target the enzyme deficiency responsible for CCI discomfort.