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Proteolytic Enzymes: Effective for Inflammation

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proteolytic enzymes

by Crystal Lauer
Health Impact News

Most of us have received an injury to our bodies at one time or another, which resulted in the familiar redness and warmth that denotes the presence of inflammation, or have experienced the pain and discomfort of the inflammatory process as it affects our joints or soft tissues. But we may never have given thought to the physiological processes at work in our discomfort. 

While acute inflammation is a complex biological response whose function is to facilitate your body’s natural healing and repair process, in contrast, unresolved systemic inflammation is now commonly believed to be at the root of most diseases.

Inflammation that occurs with injury is a necessary part of the healing process, but when your body is under stress it reacts by creating an inflammatory response, which is both painful and damaging long term.  

This is where systemic proteolytic enzymes go to work. 

According to the Nutrition Review [2],

“Proteolytic enzymes are essentially the regulators and the modulators of the inflammatory response.”

Enzymes are the catalyst for virtually every chemical reaction in the body. 

Some experts believe that the body contains upward of 50,000 different enzymes, with more than 3,000 having currently been identified.

These enzymes have been compared to specialized keys with each enzyme key fitting a corresponding lock. (The locks being biochemical reactions.)

Proteolytic enzymes [3] are a specific group of enzymes whose catalytic function is to sever the bonds between peptides and eventually break them down into amino acids, which are the building blocks of virtually all the cells and tissue that make up the body. 

These enzymes are called Proteinases, protease or peptidase and can be used repeatedly by the body (as their function is simply accelerating reactions), unlike vitamins and minerals which need to be continuously provided. 

Fibrin, formed from fibrinogen, creates tough fibrous chains that form a web-like structure which obstructs the flow of blood in an area and can be found in your blood stream as well as your connective tissue. When fibrin accumulates in muscles it forms scar tissue, and in excess can lead to more serious and chronic issues over time. 

Cancer cells also use fibrin as a hiding place where they can go undetected by the immune system. Proteolytic enzymes significantly increase the appetite of macrophages and natural killer cells (NK), which search the body looking for atypical cancer cells and viruses, and upon the removal of the fibrin shield, the cancer cells can then be attacked and dealt with.

When fibrin is removed from the bloodstream, circulation is increased and inflammation is reduced, allowing for improvement of the body’s innate healing ability.

Some of the critical jobs performed by proteolytic enzymes [4], besides the digestion of dietary protein, are blood clotting, cell division, protein recycling and immune functions.

With the heroic level of work being done in your body by proteolytic enzymes, and the increased burden forced upon them, by our less than perfect dietary choices and constant stress-inducing lifestyles, it stands to reason that while we do make our own enzymes, we also require proteolytic enzymes through our food and through systemic proteolytic enzyme supplementation.

In what foods can proteolytic enzymes be found?

We consume enzymes whenever we eat raw, fermented or sprouted foods, and proteolytic enzymes can be found in a variety of foods such as figs, kiwi, ginger, asparagus, and fermented foods such as, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and kefir, raw apple cider vinegar, to name a few.

But perhaps the most widely noted and researched are pineapple, which contains the enzyme bromelain, papaya, which contains papain, and natto, which boasts the remarkable enzyme nattokinase. 

Bromelain [5], which is found in the stem and juice of the pineapple, is used traditionally as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce localized swelling. 

Most of us know it for its seductive tropical flavor which has graced the dishes of South American and Hawaiian cooks for centuries.  However, its use is not limited to its culinary incarnation, but has been widely used in folk medicine for just as long. 

Ongoing research shows its ability to help prevent blood clots, edema and swelling. 

According to researcher’s, bromelain has shown distinct pharmacological promise, due in part to its modulation of the Arachidonate Cascade. [6]

When bromelain is taken away from foods and in between meals, it ends up in the bloodstream and becomes an effective systemic enzyme, scavenging rogue protein molecules, balancing inflammation and diminishing pain levels.

In a study done, using fresh pineapple juice [7] with measurable proteolytic enzymatic activity, a significant decrease of inflammation, severity and incidence, was noted in mice with chronic colitis. Researchers concluded that the longterm daily use of fresh pineapple juice is both safe and effective for reducing inflammation in the colon.

In a study done on the effects of bromelain on airway inflammation in pre-existing asthma [8], researchers determined that the results suggested that bromelain has a therapeutic effect, and in another study on allergies and asthma, researchers concluded that bromelain could help calm an over sensitized immune system [9] by addressing the root cause of the allergies. 

Another proteolytic enzyme, papain, comes from the tropical fruit papaya.

You may be familiar with the use of papain as a meat tenderizer if you do any cooking with red meat. This happens because the enzymes in the papaya break down the tough protein strands in the meat, leaving the meat far more tender than it would otherwise be. 

Of interest is the fact that the enzyme papain does not require a specific level of acidity or alkalinity for it to work. While pepsin, a proteolytic enzyme produced in the stomach, requires an acid to activate it, papain does not.

This is important, because as we age, hydrochloric acid production lessens and becomes insufficient for proper protein digestion. Due to this, many people can be helped by supplementing with papain daily.

Just as with bromelain, papain is an effective systemic enzyme when taken without food on an empty stomach

According to Nutrition Review [10], Italian researchers have shown that proteolytic enzymes have the ability to reduce inflammation equal or superior to that of the four steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Phenylbutazone, Hydrocortisone, Indomethacin, and Acetylsalicylic Acid.

Along the same lines as fighting inflammation with proteolytic enzymes, it should be noted that the whole papaya has been researched with excellent results.

 A 2011 study [11] found that consuming papaya may result in a reduction of inflammation and inflammatory conditions, through mediation of the regulatory T-cells. Research continues to be done on many parts of the papaya plant, including the leaves, which demonstrated significantly raised platelet and red blood cell counts by the third day of use in a Malaysian Murine study. The mice participants were given papaya leaf extract and researchers are excited by the possible future implications for humans. 

Because the skin of the papaya has a particularly high quantity of papain, traditional Polynesian peoples created poultices from the skins to speed healing of wounds, burns, rashes and bug bites, and in Jamaica papaya skin is widely used by nurses as a  topical treatment for chronic skin ulcers [12].

Perhaps, the most exciting of the current studies concerning enzymes centers around nattokinase. Nattokinase is derived from a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans called natto. While the Japanese have been consuming natto for millenia, newer research reveals an extraordinary effect on blood clots. Nattokinase has been linked to a reduction in mortality from cardiovascular disease and holds a great deal of promise for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease. [13]  Nattokinase has been determined to dissolve excessive fibrin in the bloodstream, enhancing circulation and the dissolution of blood clots. Through its ability to decrease blood viscosity, it increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure. 

The benefits of nattokinase are not limited to cardiovascular health. It also shows promise as a treatment for chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps and asthma, through the degradation of fibrin [14]. In the same study, it was noted that there was a significant reduction in the viscosity of the nasal discharge and sputum in patients with CRSwNP and asthma, due to incubation with nattokinase solution. Researchers concluded that (NK) might be an effective therapeutic option for those suffering from the above issues.

Finally, for the purposes of this article, there is the animal pancreatic-derived proteolytic enzyme, trypsin.

From our own pancreas, the inactive form of trypsin, trypsinogen, is sent to the small intestines where it is immediately activated and works alongside chymotrypsin and pepsin, breaking down protein’s molecules into peptides and amino acids. If we have an insufficient number of proteolytic enzymes, the process of proteolysis, the breaking down of protein molecules to individual peptides and amino acids, cannot be completed and the amino acids needed by the body for its everyday repair, growth and bodily processes will not be available in proper amounts. This unfortunate circumstance leads to a variety of health issues.

Supplemented trypsin aids in digestion and when combined with bromelain as shown to significantly improve symptoms of arthritic conditions. A randomized clinical trial [15] studying the efficacy of a combination of bromelain, trypsin, rutoside trihydrate enzymes and diclofenac sodium combination, in the treatment of TMJ osteoarthritis, showed significant reduction in pain, as compared to NSAIDs alone.

Cornell University-trained Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez M.D. was a New York based physician best known for his development of the Gonzalez Protocol [16], an alternative cancer treatment. Dr. Gonzalez used a variety of nutritional, dietary and porcine derived pancreatic enzyme therapies in his treatments. Dr. Gonzales was considered a clinical genius by many, particularly his stage 4 cancer patients who found hope and longer life under his care. He also treated various autoimmune diseases, concentrating on the health of the autonomic nervous system and tailoring diets, detox and supplementation to the need of each individual. 

When you are considering using enzymes systemically, it is important to look for sources that are GMO-free, whole glandular of porcine or bovine which are organic and grass-fed, as well as a formula with over 200,000 HUT and a variety of proteolytic enzymes in combination.  


Tested for the presence of glyphosate!

If you are taking certain blood thinning medications, planning a surgery in the next couple of weeks, have a stomach ulcer or are taking antibiotics, you shouldn’t take proteolytic enzymes.

If you have known allergies to papaya or pineapple, you should also not use any proteolytic enzyme with papain or bromelain in it. If you are being treated for any medical problems, it is best to check with your doctor before beginning a systemic proteolytic enzyme protocol, as it may be necessary to monitor your medications.

Over the years, I have used proteolytic enzymes for myself and for my family, during fasting periods to increase the bodies innate healing ability, as well as for reducing acute inflammation after injuries, at the first sign of sickness, and to manage autoimmune flair ups, all with remarkable success. 

I personally have noticed that when I combine proteolytic enzymes with a juice fast, water fast, raw milk fast or a bone broth fast, the results are both swift and dramatic. Thus, I try to keep bottles of proteolytic enzymes on hand as part of our preventative and emergency protocols. 

While having bottles of proteolytic enzymes on hand is an excellent idea, it’s just as important and sometimes more feasible to get as many enzymes as possible from foods you consume daily.  

As a child, I couldn’t fathom what my grandfather, Johnny O, saw in papaya, but this obsession was one he was decidedly enthusiastic about. 

As a one-time body builder and a part of the original Gangster Squad in Los Angeles in the 30s, he put a premium on staying healthy and fit, and to my disgust, papaya was featured in his regimen. 

He was certain it would make me, his first grandchild, strong, and because he was one of my favorite people, I attempted to give him the benefit of the doubt and share his papaya over our early morning breakfasts. 

Despite his good intentions, there was no doubt he was going to be the stronger of us, as I could make a single piece of papaya out live every other piece of fruit on our table.

Years later as an adult at my own table, I’m excited to serve a green papaya salad or an enzyme-rich smoothie filled with papaya and pineapple juices (there are some less than excited smaller folk living in my home who have not yet embraced my culinary brilliance). 

Even so, I suspect Johnny O would be pleased to see that all his bewildered attempts to convince me to eat the suspicious tropical fruit have paid off in the end, and that science has finally caught up with his own firmly held belief.

Enzyme Rich Papaya and Pineapple Smoothie

1 medium sized fresh pineapple – Skin removed and cut to fit your juicer

¼ of a large ripe papaya – peeled, deseeded and cut to fit your juicer.

1 Cup whole milk organic plain or vanilla yogurt

1 Cup raw milk or coconut milk

1-2 cups of ice

Stevia or raw honey to taste


  1. Juice the pineapple, ginger and papaya and pour the juice into your blender.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Enjoy your enzyme rich and probiotic filled tropical drink with a friend, they’ll appreciate it.


Abdullah M, Chai PS, Loh CY, Chong MY, Quay HW, Vidyadaran S, Seman Z, Kandiah M, and Seow HF. “Carica Papaya Increases Regulatory T Cells and Reduces IFN-Γ+ CD4+ T Cells in Healthy Human Subjects.” Mol Nutr Food Res. 55, no. 5 (2011): 803–6. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201100087.

English, James, and Lane Lenard. “Systemic Proteolytic Multi-Enzyme Therapy.” Nutrition Review, May 24, 2014. https://nutritionreview.org/2014/05/systemic-proteolytic-multi-enzyme-therapy/.

Eric R. Secor, Jr., Steven M. Szczepanek, Christine A. Castater, Alexander J. Adami, Adam P. Matson, Ektor T. Rafti, Linda Guernsey, et al. “Bromelain Inhibits Allergic Sensitization and Murine Asthma via Modulation of Dendritic Cells.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2013. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/702196.

Hale LP, Chichlowski M, Trinh CT, and Greer PK. “Dietary Supplementation with Fresh Pineapple Juice Decreases Inflammation and Colonic Neoplasia in IL-10-Deficient Mice with Colitis.” Inflamm Bowel Dis. 16, no. 12 (2010): 2012–21. https://doi.org/10.1002/ibd.21320.

Hewitt H, Whittle S, Lopez S, Bailey E, and Weaver S. “Topical Use of Papaya in Chronic Skin Ulcer Therapy in Jamaica.” West Indian Med J 49, no. 1 (2000): 32–33.

Hongjie Chen, Eileen M McGowan, Nina Ren, Sara Lal, Najah Nassif, Fatima Shad-Kaneez, Xianqin Qu, and Yiguang Lin. “Nattokinase: A Promising Alternative in Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases.” Biomark Insights. 13 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1177/1177271918785130.

Jayachandran, S, and Khobre P. “Efficacy of Bromelain along with Trypsin, Rutoside Trihydrate Enzymes and Diclofenac Sodium Combination Therapy for the Treatment of TMJ Osteoarthritis – A Randomised Clinical Trial.” J Clin Diagn Res. 11, no. 6 (2017): ZC09-ZC11. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2017/25771.9964.

Lane, Lenard, Ward Dean, and Jim English. “Controlling Inflammation with Proteolytic Enzymes.” Nutrition Review, April 24, 2013. https://nutritionreview.org/2013/04/controlling-inflammation-proteolytic-enzymes/.

Maurer HR1. “Bromelain: Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Medical Use.” Cell Mol Life Sci. 58, no. 9 (2001): 1234–45.

Mótyán, János András, Ferenc Tóth, and József Tőzsér. “Research Applications of Proteolytic Enzymes in Molecular Biology.” Biomolecules. 3, no. 4 (2013): 923–42. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom3040923.

Nicholas, Gonzalez. “Enzyme Therapy and Cancer,” n.d. https://thegonzalezprotocol.com/research-efforts/history-enzyme-therapy/.

Secor ER Jr, Shah SJ, Guernsey LA, Schramm CM, and Thrall RS. “Bromelain Limits Airway Inflammation in an Ovalbumin-Induced Murine Model of Established Asthma.” Altern Ther Health Med. 18, no. 5 (2012): 9–17.

SJ, Taussig, and Batkin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3287010https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3287010. “Bromelain, the Enzyme Complex of Pineapple (Ananas Comosus) and Its Clinical Application. An Update.” J Ethnopharmacol. 22, no. 2 (1988): 191–203.

Takabayashia, Tetsuji, Yoshimasa Imoto, Masafumi Sakashita, Yukinori Kato, Takahiro Tokunaga, Kanako Yoshida, Norihiko Narita, Tamotsu Ishizuka, and Shigeharu Fujieda. “Nattokinase, Profibrinolytic Enzyme, Effectively Shrinks the Nasal Polyp Tissue and Decreases Viscosity of Mucus.” AllergologyInternational 66, no. 4 (2017): 594–602. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alit.2017.03.007.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Proteolytic Enzyme,” n.d. https://www.britannica.com/science/proteolytic-enzyme.