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Proteolytic Enzymes
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Proteolytic Enzymes Usage

Written by FoundHealth.


Effect of Proteolytic Enzymes on Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Several studies provide preliminary evidence that proteolytic enzymes might be helpful for various forms of chronic pain, including osteoarthritis.

Studies enrolling a total of more than 400 people...

Read more about Low Back Pain and Sciatica and Proteolytic Enzymes.

Therapeutic Uses

The most obvious use of proteolytic enzymes is to assist digestion. However, a small double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found no benefit from proteolytic enzymes as a treatment for dyspepsia (indigestion). 1 Proteolytic enzymes can also be absorbed into the body whole and may help reduce inflammation and pain; 2 however, the evidence is inconsistent. Several studies found that proteolytic enzymes might be helpful for neck pain , osteoarthritis , and post-herpetic neuralgia (an aftereffect of shingles). 3 However, all of these studies suffer from significant limitations (such as the absence of a placebo group ), and none provide substantially reliable information.

Studies performed decades ago suggest that proteolytic enzymes may help reduce the pain and discomfort that follows injuries (especially sports injuries ). 4 However, a more recent, better-designed, and far larger study failed to find benefit. 5 Proteolytic enzymes have also been evaluated as an aid to recovery from the pain and inflammation caused by surgery , but most studies are decades old and, in any case, the results were mixed. 6 A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the 1960s found that use of proteolytic enzymes helped reduce the discomfort of breast engorgement in lactating women . 7 A study tested bromelain for enhancing recovery from heavy exercise by decreasing delayed-onset muscle soreness, but found no benefits. 8 Another study, this one using a mixed proteolytic enzyme supplement, also failed to find benefits. 9 Two studies failed to find proteolytic enzymes helpful for reducing side effects of radiation therapy for cancer. 10 Some alternative medicine practitioners believe that proteolytic enzymes may help reduce symptoms of food allergies , presumably by digesting the food so well that there is less to be allergic to; however, there is no scientific evidence for this proposed use.

Another theory popular in certain alternative medicine circles suggests that proteolytic enzymes can aid rheumatoid arthritis , multiple sclerosis , lupus , and other autoimmune diseases. Supposedly, these diseases are made worse when whole proteins from foods leak into the blood and cause immune reactions. Digestive enzymes are said to help foil this so-called leaky gut problem. Again, however, there is no meaningful evidence to substantiate this theory. Furthermore, one fairly large (301-participant) study failed to find proteolytic enzymes helpful for multiple sclerosis. 11


  1. Kleveland PM, Johannessen T, Kristensen P, Løge I, Sandbakken P, Dybdahl J, Petersen H. Effect of pancreatic enzymes in non-ulcer dyspepsia. A pilot study. Scand J Gastroenterol. 25(3):298-301.
  2. Taussig SJ, Batkin S. Bromelain, the enzyme complex of pineapple ( Ananas comosus ) and its clinical application. An update. J Ethnopharmacol. 1988;22:191-203.
  3. Billigmann VP. Enzyme therapy—an alternative in treatment of herpes zoster. A controlled study of 192 patients [translated from German]. Fortschr Med. 1995;113:43-48.
  4. Zuschlag JM. Double-blind clinical study using certain proteolytic enzyme mixtures in karate fighters. Working paper. Mucos Pharma GmbH (Germany). 1988;1-5.
  5. Kerkhoffs GM, Struijs PA, de Wit C, Rahlfs VW, Zwipp H, van Dijk CN. A double blind, randomised, parallel group study on the efficacy and safety of treating acute lateral ankle sprain with oral hydrolytic enzymes. Br J Sports Med. 38(4):431-5.
  6. Rahn HD. Efficacy of hydrolytic enzymes in surgery. Paper presented at: 24th FIMS World Congress of Sports Medicine; May 27-June 1, 1990; Amsterdam.
  7. Murata T, Hunzow M, Nomura Y. The clinical effects of 'protease complex' on postpartum breast engorgement. J Jap Obstet Gynaecol Soc. 1965;12:139-147.
  8. Stone MB, Merrick MA, Ingersoll CD, Edwards JE. Preliminary comparison of bromelain and Ibuprofen for delayed onset muscle soreness management. Clin J Sport Med. 12(6):373-8.
  9. Beck TW, Housh TJ, Johnson GO, Schmidt RJ, Housh DJ, Coburn JW, Malek MH, Mielke M. Effects of a protease supplement on eccentric exercise-induced markers of delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage. J Strength Cond Res. 21(3):661-7.
  10. Martin T, Uhder K, Kurek R, Roeddiger S, Schneider L, Vogt HG, Heyd R, Zamboglou N. Does prophylactic treatment with proteolytic enzymes reduce acute toxicity of adjuvant pelvic irradiation? Results of a double-blind randomized trial. Radiother Oncol. 65(1):17-22.
  11. Baumhackl U, Kappos L, Radue EW, Freitag P, Guseo A, Daumer M, Mertin J. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of oral hydrolytic enzymes in relapsing multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 11(2):166-8.

1 Comment

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