Last week I talked about enzymes, and how we primarily use digestive enzyme supplements to help us break down our food optimally, getting the most nutrition possible out of it and minimizing immune reactivity that comes from incompletely digested food molecules reaching our bloodstream (such as in the case of leaky gut). This week I’m going to be talking about a different application for enzymes; that is, how enzymes can help with pain and inflammation.
There are many different enzymes that can be used in this category, broadly named proteolytic enzymes, to separate them from digestive enzymes. Proteolytic enzymes assist in the breaking down of proteins into single amino acids. When taken on an empty stomach, proteolytic enzymes pass through the intestinal wall and get out into the blood stream, where they can travel to different parts of the body.
Proteolytic enzymes can be found naturally in certain foods. Papain is a good example, it comes from the fruit papaya. Pineapple also contains bromelain. However, to really get a therapeutic effect, it is necessary to supplement with a proteolytic enzyme formula that contains a range of enzymes in higher amounts.
The mechanism by which proteolytic enzymes help with pain is by modulating inflammation in the body. They can break down by-products of inflammation such as cellular debris into smaller fragments, which them makes them easier to transport away in the lymphatic system. They can increase circulation, facilitating the incoming passage of nutrients and oxygen, and the outgoing passage of wastes and toxins. They do this by thinning the blood, and reducing the viscosity (stickiness) of the blood.
It is not just musculoskeletal pain that proteolytic enzymes can help, they can also help the inflammation of conditions such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
There are many good products on the market. I have always like Researched Nutritionals’ InflaQuell, which contains Protease, Bromelain, Serrazymes, Papain, plus a tummy-tamer blend ginger and ruin. Another popular one is Wobenzym which contains a similar blend – pancreatic, papain, bromelain, trypsin, chymotrypsin, and rutin.
I tend to use a range of anti-inflammatory herbs (such as curcumin and white willow) along with proteolytic enzymes when I have a patient with severe pain and inflammation. The important thing is to remember to take the proteolytic enzymes on an empty stomach, otherwise they will help digest your food but that’s not the goal in this context. I have seen proteolytic enzymes work really well and bring good relief from pain in a very safe, natural way.