What Are Proteolytic Enzymes and Why Are They Important?

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Who doesn’t want optimal health? Enzymes are responsible for countless vital processes in the body that keep us alive and functioning well. One of the many functions that enzymes provide is to help break down food for energy. Specifically, proteolytic enzymes help break down proteins into amino acids, which in turn help in combating infection, inflammation, and overall improved digestive function.

What Are Proteolytic Enzymes?

Also known as peptidases, proteases, or proteinases, proteolytic enzymes are produced in the stomach and pancreas of the human body. They are responsible for cell division, immune function, blood clotting, and protein uptake. 

Proteolytic enzymes are also responsible for many functions in the body, including immune response and protein digestion. They are produced by the body but can also be eaten in certain foods or taken as supplements, such as the best amylase bromelain lipase supplement

Proteolytic Enzyme Sources

Proteolytic enzymes can be found naturally in certain foods. The three main types produced in the human body are pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin.

These are produced by the body in order to break down dietary proteins into smaller particles known as amino acids which allow for proper body functioning. 

Food Sources of Proteolytic Enzymes

Perhaps the best two food sources are papaya and pineapple.

Papaya

Papain is the potent active ingredient in papaya and is also known as papaya proteinase 1 (cysteine protease enzyme). It is extracted from the latex of papaya (Carica papaya) and the mountain papaya (Vasconcellea pubescens).

Papain is collected after scoring the fruit and collecting the latex that exudes from the cut. 

Papain is a potent proteolytic enzyme that has been used for thousands of years to tenderize tough meat fibres by indigenous cultures around the world. 

Pineapple

Pineapple (Ananas comosus) contains a highly effective proteolytic acid called bromelain. Bromelain is present in the fruit and skin of the pineapple and has been used for centuries by the indigenous tribes of Central and South America to treat a wide variety of conditions.

Both papain and bromelain can be absorbed into the system by eating raw papaya and pineapple. If you prefer, you can also take them in concentrated supplement form.

Other Food Sources

While papaya and pineapple are the most common forms of proteolytic enzymes, some other food sources include:

  • Ginger
  • Asparagus 
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kiwi 

Some Benefits of Proteolytic Enzymes

Improves Digestion

Digestion is vital to the proper functioning of the human organism. When it moves slightly off-kilter, it can leave you feeling completely out of balance. Fortunately, there are foods we can eat to maintain a healthy gut to ensure we don’t suffer from any digestive issues.

Proteolytic enzymes help aid digestion by easing the absorption of dietary protein. The use of supplements can be especially useful for those who are deficient and don’t produce enough of this vital enzyme to aid in protein digestion. 

Studies have shown the supplementation of various proteolytic enzymes can improve cases of indigestion, thus reducing bloating, gas, abdominal pain, heartburn, acid reflux, and the loss of appetite. 

Helps With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Studies have shown that taking proteolytic supplements including papain led to a significant reduction in IBS symptoms including bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and constipation.

Bromelain has also been shown to reduce flare-ups in people suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

Can Lower Inflammation

One study on rats has shown that injecting the proteolytic enzymes chymotrypsin, trypsin and serratiopeptidase is more effective at reducing inflammation than taking aspirin. Some of these enzymes are also proving promising in help with arthritis. 

More than 10 studies have shown that bromelain was effective at reducing joint pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints in osteoarthritis patients. 

Bromelain has also been shown to ease the symptoms of sinusitis, where the nasal passages become inflamed. 

Can Speed Up Wound Healing

Supplementation with proteolytic enzymes may help speed up the healing of wounds. Both papain and bromelain applied directly to the skin have been shown to accelerate new tissue growth in animal studies when directly applied to the skin. It also proves useful in reducing pain, inflammation, and swelling post-surgery. 

Helps Muscle Regeneration

Proteolytic enzymes can help ease the pain of muscle soreness after a particularly strenuous workout and thus speed up recovery time. Proteolytic enzyme blends containing bromelain and Curcuma have been shown to be particularly effective against post-workout soreness. 

Certain Proteolytic Enzymes May Help Fight Cancer

Bromelain has been shown to inhibit the growth and even kill stomach and colon cancer cells in a test tube study. Bromelain-containing foods such as pineapple may help in preventing colon cancer. However, more studies on humans are required to corroborate these findings. Bromelain and papain have also been shown to induce the death of cancer cells in bile duct cancer cells in human subjects. 

How to Include More Proteolytic Enzymes in Your Diet

Proteolytic enzymes can be included in your diet in a myriad of ways, depending on what exactly it is that you want to use them for. Eating enzyme-rich food sources like pineapple, papaya, kiwi fruit, ginger, sauerkraut, or kimchi, for example, can dramatically boost your intake and help you reap the benefits of a proteolytic enzyme-rich diet.

Proteolytic enzyme supplements are another option and are available in a host of different combinations depending on your specific needs and requirements.

The Takeaway

Proteolytic enzymes help with many important functions in the human body including breaking down proteins into amino acids and converting them into readily available energy. They can also help to improve immune function, inflammation, infections and improve overall digestive health.

Studies have also shown their efficacy in helping ease IBS symptoms, osteoarthritis pain, and even fight cancer, although more research on human subjects is required in this area.

Proteolytic enzymes can be consumed in foods such as pineapple, papaya, kiwi fruit, and many types of fermented foods, or in the form of supplements depending on your specific needs and requirements. However you choose to take them you are sure to reap the many benefits of these important enzymes.

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