Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme that helps fight off bad bacteria in the gut. It improves digestion, makes your bones strong, and keeps your mind sharp. Both high and low blood levels can be problematic. Read on to learn about its role in the body and whether your values are normal.
What is Alkaline Phosphatase?
Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme found in all tissues in the human body but is mostly concentrated in the bones, kidneys, liver, intestines, and placenta. It exists in different forms, depending on where it originates from .
Some major functions include protecting your intestinal tract against bacteria, aiding in digestion, breaking down fats and some B vitamins, and promoting bone formation . Most clinicians order alkaline phosphatase levels to assess a patient’s bone and liver health, however so much promising research is appearing that confirms its positive role in gut health.
The correct balance of ALP is required for healthy functioning, excess or insufficient levels of this enzyme can lead to a broad range of diseases .
Alkaline Phosphatase Function
1) Supports Cognition
You need just the right amount of alkaline phosphatase for your brain to work at its best. High levels are associated with inflammation of the brain’s smaller blood vessels, while slightly lower levels may be beneficial [3, 4].
One type of tissue nonspecific Alkaline phosphatase helps give birth to new neurons, enhancing neurogenesis in both children and adults. Another type of intestinal alkaline phosphatase might complement brain health by reducing inflammation and balancing the “good” bacteria in the gut .
2) Keeps Bones and Teeth Healthy
Alkaline phosphatase plays an important role in the development of bones and teeth because it is essential for mineralization. Mineralization is when minerals, like calcium and phosphorus, are deposited in bones and teeth to help them become strong .
3) Maintains Cholesterol Levels
Pregnant women have higher blood alkaline phosphatase activity. Both triglyceride and total cholesterol levels increased in parallel with alkaline phosphatase, so cholesterol levels are correlated with enzyme activity .
Normal Range for Alkaline Phosphatase
Generally, the total alkaline phosphatase (ALP) test is run to find all types of ALP in the blood to diagnose bone and liver disorders.
If ALP comes back high, the doctor may order the ALP isozyme test to see which specific type of alkaline phosphatase is elevated. The ALP isozyme test can distinguish between the bone and liver ALP.
The normal range of alkaline phosphatase in the blood is 20 to 140U/L, although this can vary from lab to lab. Some labs set the range at 30 to 130 U/L. Of note, children and pregnant women can have significantly higher levels of the enzyme in their blood and have their own standard of “normal” range.
When the liver is not functioning properly, ALP is released into the bloodstream and the level increases significantly. Additionally, any condition that affects bone growth or causes the increased activity of bone cells can increase ALP levels in the blood. For this reason, an ALP level test is commonly used to help diagnose liver/gallbladder disorders and bone disorders .
ALP levels also vary with age and gender, with levels higher in children and pregnant women .
Higher ALP levels can occur in people with blood group B or blood group O .
8 Benefits of Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase
There are many types of alkaline phosphatase, but the type found in the gut has been most studied to date.
Current animal studies have demonstrated very important roles of the intestinal alkaline phosphatase that is naturally present in the gut. The enzyme interacts with the gut, the food we eat, and the microbes found in our body.
In addition, several animal studies and human trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of supplementation with alkaline phosphatase. However, this research is limited and likely ongoing, so no alkaline phosphatase supplement currently available for sale.
Unlike other types of alkaline phosphatases, intestinal alkaline phosphatase is mostly tied to the gut lining, with 1 – 2% may be present in the bloodstream .
1) Protects Against Bacterial Infection in the Gut
Many bad bacteria which are gram-negative have lipopolysaccharides (LPS) that can trigger either an acute infection episode (sepsis) or chronic inflammation.
Intestinal alkaline phosphatase can remove phosphate groups from LPS, which reduces its inflammatory effects .
In addition, intestinal alkaline phosphatase also may prevent bacteria like Salmonella typhimurium and Clostridium difficile from traveling to the lymph nodes in the gut .
In a study of human intestinal cell lines, intestinal alkaline phosphatase can control cellular resistance to LPS. The presence of LPS in the blood can stimulate inflammation in the body .
2) Helps Restore Gut Bacteria After Antibiotics
Treating antibiotic-treated mice with intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) before Salmonella and Clostridium infection protects the mice from the infection, suggesting that it helped to rapidly restore gut flora.
In mice, oral supplementation with calf intestinal alkaline phosphatase during antibiotic treatment had fewer infections and a lower mortality rate compared to mice with no supplementation .
3) Helps Repair Leaky Gut in Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Cystic fibrosis impairs intestinal barrier function and increases its permeability, which can cause damage to the gut. This also causes reduced activity of intestinal alkaline phosphatase .
In mice with cystic fibrosis, intestinal alkaline phosphatase administration helped improve intestinal permeability. It also reduced small intestinal bacterial overgrowth by more than eighty percent .
4) Helps Remove Toxic Microbial Chemicals
Intestinal alkaline phosphatase removes phosphate groups from toxic microbial molecules, such as leftover DNAs and parts of bad bacteria. This helps protect against inflammation .
5) Slows Down Fat Absorption
6) Helps Treat Kidney Injuries
In a clinical trial on human subjects with a severe bacterial infection (sepsis) that lead to acute kidney injury, the administration of alkaline phosphatase through the blood helped improve overall kidney function. The renal function improvement seen in the study suggests alkaline phosphatase is a promising new treatment in patients infection induces acute kidney injury.
Because alkaline phosphatase can reduce inflammation by removing phosphate groups from certain toxins, it can protect organs from bacterial damage .
7) Type 2 Diabetes
Mice deficient in intestinal alkaline phosphatase can develop type 2 diabetes.
Scientists studied the stools of 200 diabetic and 400 non-diabetic patients. They found that compared to the controls, diabetic patients had lower intestinal alkaline phosphatase activity levels .
Intestinal alkaline phosphatase was also protective against type 2 diabetes even in obese patients .
8) Helps Reduce Gut Inflammation
Injection of intestinal alkaline phosphatase reduces inflammatory molecules (TNF-alpha, IL-5, and IL-1beta) in newborns that suffer from gut cell death (necrotizing enterocolitis). However, the injection did not cure the necrotizing enterocolitis .
Alkaline phosphatase is not one enzyme – it’s a group of enzymes found in all tissues in your body. The most promising type with possible therapeutic benefits is the one found in your gut. Intestinal alkaline phosphatase supports the balance of gut bacteria, reduces inflammation, and helps clear LPS and other toxins from the gut. Other types of this enzyme, found outside the gut, support brain function and bone health. Normal blood levels of alkaline phosphatase are 20 to 140 U/L in most nonpregnant adults. Doctors typically run this test to check for liver and bone disorders. Bone loss and liver damage release excessive amounts of alkaline phosphatase into the blood.