Think you know all about nutrition? OK, name the primary
functions of proteolytic (protein eating) enzymes in the
body? If you said digestion go to the rear of the class! Digestion
is one of the last things a proteolytic enzyme does. While
most of us can name the actions of every vitamin and herb
in creation, 99% of the people in the natural health, pharmaceutical
and even medical world don't know what enzymes really are,
what they do, and how they are being used to help human function.
First let’s talk about what an enzyme is: an enzyme
is a large protein molecule that cleaves, cuts or eats specific
pre-designated things (think of Pac Man with shark like teeth). Depending
on the programming of the “teeth”, the enzymes
fit over certain substances in a lock and key fashion, cutting
through one specific type of thing, a particular type of
protein let’s say yet leaving undisturbed protein of
a similar but slightly different type.
Enzymes are essential as “bio catalysts”, in
other words they speed the action of chemical reactions. Without
enzymes involved in every cellular event in out bodies the
chemical reactions within us would be so slow as to make
life as we know it impossible. There are some 3000+
enzymes in the human body, most of them of the proteolytic
type. These 3000+ enzymes create between 7000 to 25000 different
enzyme reactions. The 3000 enzymes themselves
are created as a result of either our own enzyme production
(which is finite in nature), or from ingesting enzymes from
our live or uncooked food.
This leads us to two issues:
1) Enzymes are heat sensitive. Temperatures of 105
to 125 degrees F kill enzymes and their related activity. So
cooked foods have virtually nothing in the way of enzymes.
Enzymes cultured in laboratories can be made with an increased
resistance to heat both in terms of degrees and in terms
of time exposed to higher temps but overall the enzymes in
food die from cooking.
2) Many scientists and physicians in the US still believe
that enzymes are too big to pass through the intestinal tract
and get into the blood stream intact. Something the
size of Pac Man when compared to the dots he eats cannot
possibly be absorbed through the tiny pores of the intestinal
membrane. This ignores the medically known fact that
Salmonella, a molecule 5 times larger than the largest enzyme,
easily passes through the intestinal wall to be absorbed
whole, (i.e. without being broken down and digested), into
the blood stream. For those late bloomers here in the
States – there are over 200 peer reviewed medical and
university studies proving beyond the shadow of a doubt not
only the absorption of enzymes but also their medical therapeutic
By now you may be asking yourself just what do enzymes do? Let's
take a look at the three major forms of basic enzymes in
the body and look into the work they do. There are
three major subdivisions of enzymes in the human system:
Proteases, which eat or breakdown protein.
Lipases, which eat or break down fats.
Amylases, which eat or breakdown carbohydrates.
“Wait a minute”, you'll say, “that all
sounds like digestion I though you said that digestion is
the last thing an enzymes does”? Quite so lets
look at what these enzymes are cleaving and where!
Of the 3 enzymes listed, proteases and lipase's have systemic
functions: that means they perform jobs all over the body
in most every system. Only amylase, the carbohydrate
lysing (cleaving or eating) enzyme acts almost solely in
The first thing the proteolytic enzymes do is to create
what is known as the enzyme cascade. Most of the enzymes
active in the reactions that occur body wide are proteolytic
in nature, that is they are concerned with cleaving a type
of specific protein or another (we have literally hundreds
of different types and arrangements of proteins in our bodies). So
the vast majority of the 7000 to 25,000 enzymic reactions
that need to happen within us are proteolytic in nature. Aside
from the 25,000 possible reactions of protein eating enzymes
science now knows they have 5 primary functions:
They are the first line of defense against inflammation.
(1,2,3). Inflammation is a reaction by the immune system
to an irritation. Let’s say you have an injured
right knee. The immune system sensing the irritation
the knee is undergoing creates a protein chain called a Circulating
Immune Complex (CIC for short), tagged specifically for that
right knee. (The Nobel Prize in biology was won in
1999 by a scientist who found the tagging mechanism). This
CIC floats down to the right knee and causes pain, redness
and swelling – the classic earmarks for inflammation. This
at first is a beneficial reaction; it warns us that a part
of ourselves is hurt and needs attention. But, inflammation
is self-perpetuating, itself creating an irritation that
the body makes CIC’s to in response!
Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Celebrex, Vioxx and the rest of the
Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs all work by keeping
the body from making all CIC’s. This ignores
the fact that some CIC’s are vital to life, like those
that maintain the lining of the intestine and those that
keep the kidneys functioning! Not to mention the fact
that they along with acetaminophen are highly toxic to the
liver. Every year 20,000 Americans die from these over
the counter drugs and another 100,000 will wind up in the
hospital with liver damage, kidney damage or bleeding intestines
from the side effects of these drugs. (4,5).
Systemic enzymes on the other hand are perfectly safe and
free of dangerous side effects. They have no LD-50,
or toxic dose. (6). Best of all systemic enzymes can
tell the difference between the good CIC’s and the
bad ones because hydrolytic enzymes are lock and key mechanisms
and their “teeth” will only fit over the bad
CIC’s. So instead of preventing the creation
of all CIC’s, systemic enzymes just “eat” the
bad ones and in so doing lower inflammation everywhere and
with that pain is lowered also.
Enzymes eat scar tissue and fibrosis. (7). Fibrosis
is scar tissue and most doctors learn in anatomy that it
is fibrosis that eventually kills us all. Let me explain. As
we age, which starts at 27, we have a diminishing of the
bodies’ output of enzymes. This is because we
make a finite amount of enzymes in a lifetime and we use
up a good deal of them by the time we are 27. At that
point the body knows that if it keeps up that rate of consumption
we’ll run plum out of enzymes and be stone cold dead
by the time we reach our 40’s. (Cystic Fibrosis
patients who have virtually no enzyme production to speak
of, even as children usually don’t make it past their
20’s before they die of the restriction and shrinkage
in the lungs from the formation of fibrosis or scar tissue).
So our body in its wisdom begins to dole out our enzymes
with an eyedropper instead of with a tablespoon; result -
the repair mechanism of the body goes off balance and has
nothing to reduce the over abundance of fibrin it deposits
in nearly every thing from simple cuts, to the inside of
our internal organs and blood vessels. It is then when
most women begin to develop things like fibrocystic breast
disease, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and we all grow
arterial sclerotic (meaning scar tissue) plaque, and have
fibrin begin to spider web its way inside of our internal
organs reducing their size and function over time. This
is why as we age our wounds heal with thicker, less pliable,
weaker and very visible scars.
If we replace the lost enzymes we can control and reduce
the amount of scar tissue and fibrosis our bodies have. As
physicians in the US are now discovering, even old scar tissue
can be “eaten away” from surgical wounds, pulmonary
fibrosis, and kidney fibrosis even keloid years after their
formation. Medical doctors in Europe and Asia have
known this and used orally administered enzymes for such
for over 40 years!
The blood is not only the river of life; it is also the
river through which the cells and organs dispose of their
garbage and dead material. Enzymes improve circulation
by eating the excess fibrin that causes blood to sometimes
get as thick as ketchup or yogurt creating the perfect environment
for the formation of clots. All of this material is supposed
to be cleaned off by the liver on “first pass” or
the first time it goes through but given the sluggish and
near toxic or toxic states of everyone’s liver these
days that seldom happens. So the sludge remains in
the blood waiting for the liver to have enough free working
space and enough enzymes to clean the trash out of the blood. This
can take days, in some folk’s weeks! (8). When
systemic enzymes are taken they stand ready in the blood
and take the strain off of the liver by; Cleaning excess
fibrin from the blood and reducing the stickiness of blood
two actions minimize the leading causes of stroke and heart
attack causing blood clots. (8).Breaking dead material down
small enough that it can immediately pass into the bowel.
(8).Cleanse the FC receptors on the white blood cells improving
their function and availability to fight off infection. (9).
And here we come to the only warning we have to give concerning
the use of systemic enzyme – don’t
use the product if you are a hemophiliac or are on prescription
blood thinners like Coumaden, heparin and Plavix. The
enzymes cause the drugs to work better so there is the possibility
of thinning the blood too much.
Immune System Modulating.
Enzymes are adaptogenic seeking to restore a steady state
to the body. (9). When the immune system
is running low we become susceptible to infectious disease,
when it’s cranked up too high then the system creates
antibodies that attack it’s own tissues as are seen
in the auto immune diseases of MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis,
and Lupus. Here therapeutic dosing of oral administered
systemic enzymes will tone down immune function and eat away
at the antibodies the immune system is making to attack its
bodies own tissue.
When the immune system is run down too low the enzymes increase
immune response, producing more Natural Killer cells, and
improving the efficiency of the white blood cells, all leading
to improved immunity.
Viruses harm us by replicating in our bodies. To do
this a virus must bond itself to the DNA in our cells through
the medium of its exterior protein cell wall. Anything
that disrupts that cell wall inhibits the ability of that
virus viral replication by rendering individual viruses inert.
(10,11). Systemic enzymes can tell the difference between
the proteins that are supposed to be in your body and those
that are foreign or not supposed to be there, (again the
enzyme lock and key mechanism). Even now
the US Military has developed a proteolytic enzyme blend
to be used as an anti biological warfare agent against Anthrax
and viruses. (12).
As can be seen the primary actions of proteolytic actions
are impressive and hold great promise for health and medical
Though the bulk of body wide enzyme reactions are proteolytic
the remaining systemic enzyme, lipase performs some important
jobs as well. The most important action of lipase lends
itself to service in a few different areas:
Fat Loss / Energy Releasing By Dissolving Body Fat:
Lipase breaks down body fat so that it can start the long
drawn out process of becoming blood sugar. Unfortunately
as we age our own production of enzymes decreases and with
that our ability to turn fat into energy decreases also. This
could be one of the reasons why it is so difficult to lose
weight after 35. Lipase supplementation could
be used to cause the breakdown of body fat and help its conversion
into energy, while decreasing body weight and cholesterol.
Still think enzymes are used only for digestion? Stick
around; there are a myriad of other uses and applications
for systemic enzymes that will come to the fore in the near
future. Enzymes are our most important nutrients!
1) Bodhankar S.L., Et Al: Anti Inflammatory and Analgesic
activity of Exclzyme-EN. Scientific Abstracts, 54th
Indian Pharmaceutical Congress 2002, Pune.
2) Mazzone A, et al.: Evaluation of Serratia peptidase in
acute or chronic inflammation
of otorhinolaryngology pathology: a multicentre, double blind, randomized
trial versus placebo. J Int Med Res. 1990; 18(5):379-88.
3) Kee W., H. Tan S, L., Lee V. Salmon Y. M.: The
treatment of breast engorgement
with Serrapeptase: a randomized double blind controlled trial. Singapore
Med J. 1989:30(l):48-54.
4) Celebrex article Wall Street Journal 19 April 1999.
5) No author listed: Regular Use of Pain Relievers Can Have
Dangerous Results. Kaleidoscope
Interactive News, American Medical Association media briefing. July
6) Enzymes – A Drug of the Future, Prof. Heinrich
Wrba MD and Otto Pecher MD. Published
1993 Eco Med.
7) Kakinumu A. et al.: Regression of fibrinolysis in scalded
rats by administration of serrapeptase. Biochem. Pharmacol.
8) Ernst E., Matrai A.: Oral Therapy with proteolytic enzymes
for modifying blood rheology. Klin Wschr. 65 (1987),
9) Kunze R., Ransberger K., et at: Humoral immunomodulatory
capasity of proteases in immune complex decomposition and
formation. First International symposium on combination therapies,
Washington, DC, 1991.
10) Jager H.: Hydrolytic Enzymes in the therapy of HIV disease. Zeitschr.
Allgemeinmed., 19 (1990), 160.
- Bartsch W.: The treatment of herpes zoster using proteolytic
enzymes. Der Informierte
Arzt. 2 (1974), 424-429.