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Enzymes are the unsung heroes of your health. They work around the clock and play a critical role in speeding up every chemical reaction in the body. These catalysts help you break down food, replicate new cells, and even generate ATP—the primary source of fuel for your cells.
Your body produces a considerable amount of these enzymes on its own, but it also needs to get some through the food you eat, or by supplementing.
This includes a class of enzymes called proteolytic enzymes, which not only function as digestive enzymes, but work systemically throughout the body, providing a wide-range of benefits.
Proteolytic enzymes are found in foods like pineapple (bromelain) and papaya (papain) and help break down proteins into amino acids, which serve as building blocks for nearly all cells and tissues in the body.
But when taken in-between meals, proteolytic enzymes go beyond the digestive system to boost energy, optimize oxygen flow, fight inflammation and more. Here are 5 reasons to get these enzymes every day.
One of the most impressive benefits of proteolytic enzymes is their ability to reduce unwanted inflammation.
Specifically, they can destroy pathogenic complexes that inhibit normal immune function. In other words, proteolytic enzymes gobble up substances that can cause unwanted inflammation (1).
Picture it like Pacman eating the little white dots. Except in this case, the white dots cause chronic inflammation.
While bromelain is well established for its anti-inflammatory properties, European and Japanese researchers have found the most effective proteolytic enzyme for reducing the inflammation response is serratiopeptidase (2).
Furthermore, the researchers Lane Lenard, Ph.D.; Ward Dean, M.D.; and Jim English, reported another impressive result:
“Italian researchers have shown that the ability of proteolytic enzymes to reduce inflammation is equal to or superior to four powerful steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”
This means your knees, shoulders and other joints can stay in top shape thanks to the natural activity of proteolytic enzymes.
Taking care of your heart should be at the top of your self-care list considering it’s the number one cause of death in the world (3).
That means you should eat right, exercise, avoid chronic inflammation, and keep stress at bay. Those are the basics. New evidence suggests that proteolytic enzymes can also boost your cardiovascular health.
In 2016, researchers found that consuming nattokinase, a specific proteolytic enzyme, can help reduce your blood pressure (4).
Additional studies found that nattokinase can benefit your cardiovascular system in other ways. Nattokinase “provides support to the circulatory system by thinning the blood and dissolving blood clots” (5).
Proteolytic enzymes help your body break down proteins. That means if you consume high-protein meals, or follow a paleo diet, you can use proteolytic enzymes to support digestive health.
Since your body has an easier time digesting the protein, you can experience less digestive discomfort as well.
One study, for example, found that people who suffered from functional dyspepsia (gastritis) received significant benefit from taking a proteolytic supplement. Improvements included reduced bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and heartburn (6).
For full digestive benefits, take proteolytic enzymes just before or with a protein-heavy meal.
If you need more energy, you don’t have to turn to unhealthy energy drinks, sugary sodas or shots of caffeine. Proteolytic enzymes boost energy naturally.
Since proteolytic enzymes help clean out pathogens and excess proteins from the blood, they optimize the flow of red blood cells in the body (1).
And because red blood cells transport oxygen, they can deliver energizing oxygen more efficiently throughout the body.
So, while energy drinks cover up fatigue with a short burst of energy, proteolytic enzymes provide a natural source of long-lasting energy.
Whenever you get an injury, you want it to heal as quickly as possible, right? Well, it turns out that if you get proteolytic enzymes in your diet, it can significantly accelerate recovery time.
Proteolytic enzymes can break down cellular debris at sites of injury. This causes swelling and pain to decrease at a faster rate. Evidence also suggests that they can boost the speed of new tissue growth and wound healing (7, 8).
Since proteolytic enzymes can reduce swelling, inflammation, and promote new tissue growth, they are also optimal for exercise recovery.
One study found that people who consumed a supplement containing a variety of proteolytic enzymes experienced significantly less muscle soreness and quicker muscle recovery after downhill running (9).
If you’re taking proteolytic enzymes for digestive reasons, you can eat foods that contain proteases, including pineapple, papaya, ginger, kiwi and natto.
However, if you want the systemic (whole body) benefits of proteolytic enzymes then it’s best to take a supplement, since the enzymes need to be taken in-between meals, ideally on an empty stomach.
Plant-based enzymes are preferred, since those enzymes can survive a wider range of pH found throughout the digestive system and are better absorbed.
If you are taking blood thinning medication, you should check with your doctor before starting proteolytic enzymes since these highly effective systemic enzymes are known to speed up blood flow.