Systemic enzyme supplements are used to instigate various chemical reactions within cells and not necessarily for food digestion. The clinical use of enzymes is most widely practiced in Germany, where they are commonly used for their anti-fibrotic, anti-inflammatory, immune-supportive and blood- thinning properties. More than 50 studies have confirmed their use in treating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, sports injuries and maintaining good heart health and immune function. One systemic oral enzyme preparation is the No. 1 non-aspirin, over-the-counter medicine for pain and inflammation and the ninth-leading natural medicine among all medical drugs in Germany. In the United States, systemic oral enzymes have been overlooked by most physicians and consumers, but this trend is changing.

Proteolytic systemic enzymes (proteases), such as those found in bromelain, papain and pancreatin, cleave protein compounds by hydrolysis. That is, they split their substrate by incorporating water. These enzymes are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream and travel to specific sites where they break down cell debris, fibrin and toxins. They also stimulate phagocytosis within the immune system and accelerate elimination by way of the lymphatic system and blood vessels. This translates into improved circulation and reduced inflammation.

In contrast to chemical inhibitors of inflammation such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), enzyme preparations support and accelerate the natural inflammatory process without contributing to pain, redness and swelling. This is accomplished by helping degrade and remove plasma proteins and fibrin that invade the interstitial space within tissues at the site of inflammation. Improved microcirculation and removal of inflammatory products results in an analgesic effect and complaint relief.

Proteolytic enzymes, which when taken with a meal is used to help digest food. Proteolytic enzymes are known as systemic enzyme supplements and are taken on an empty stomach, 45 minutes to one hour before meals or 3 hours after a meal, to digest proteinaceous or fibrous waste material throughout the body including the outer coating of bacteria, cysts, tumors, necrotic tissue and immune complexes. The only negative effects are for people with rare cases of protein allergies.


Inflammation in its many forms is perhaps the most general and fundamental reaction in all possible pathological conditions, for there is hardly any disease condition, which would not include in its course at least some inflammatory phase.

After an injury, circulation in the tiny blood vessels is slowed by small blood clots. The body’s defenders, leukocytes, or white corpuscles rush in and deposit fibrin, an elastic enzyme, around the affected area until an inflammatory membrane has been laid down. Edema (the accumulation of fluid) and pain follow. The classical symptoms of inflammation are: redness, swelling, heat and pain, which are secondary symptoms after the initial changes have taken place.

At the moment any injury occurs, a series of defense actions begin. The object is the elimination of the harmful damage, or to prevent its further spreading in the organism, by isolation of the offender, and to restore the original physiology as far as possible. All of these defense reactions are grouped together under the elective name of inflammatory reactions. An inflammatory condition should be treated according to the severity, the extent, the cause and the state of reaction of the organism.

Synthetic “inflammation inhibitors” which are active at certain points during the course of the inflammatory reactions are available. They are sometimes associated with undesirable side effects such as insomnia, depression, systemic fungal infection, increased calcium excretion, gastrointestinal irritation, visual complaints, fever and fatigue. These “inflammation inhibitors” are divided mainly into two groups: Steroids, i.e., cortisone and its derivatives, and the Non-Steroids, which are usually salicylic acid derivatives such as butazolidine, indomethacin and others.

The other class of anti-inflammatory agents is made up of enzymatic inflammation inhibitors; they are proteolytic enzymes, which are highly active substances usually found in the body itself. They are non-toxic and may be used in every kind of inflammation, making them desirable for therapeutic and prophylactic application, i.e., sports injuries. Proteolytic enzymes can be used for an extended period of time for continuous therapy, usually without any restrictions, and there are no undesirable side effects.

The therapeutic use of proteolytic enzymes provides a reliable inhibition of inflammation, with fibrinolytic effect, which leads to lessening of edema and reductions in pain.

Many athletes, such as football players and boxers who are being exposed to the possibility of injuries, take proteolytic enzymes prior to their activities to protect against the effects of sport injuries.

When using proteolytic enzymes, a larger immediate dosage followed by a decreasing dosage seems to work well in sport injuries and helps reduce the consequence of subluxations, contusions, compressions or lacerations.

The disabling effects of sprains and strains to knees and muscle groups are usually controlled and relieved by proteolytic enzymes. Fractures tend to heal much more rapidly and with fewer complications if proteolytic enzymes are used, and hematomas and bruises disappear in a shorter time.

Proteolytic enzymes promote natural healing safely and effectively by restoring circulation to the area of the injury.

A combination of Proteolytic Enzymes, which includes Pancreatin, Bromelain, Papain, and Trypsin/alpha Chymotrypsin, along with associated digestive enzymes Lipase and Amylase, has proved enormously helpful in accelerating the body’s healing process in injuries and inflammations, from arthritis to surgical wounds.

ENZYMES are vital to health–to life itself. These special proteins are necessary for every chemical reaction in your body and the normal activity of your cells, tissues, fluids, and organs. Enzymes digest the food you eat and are essential for the production of energy required to run your body. Vitamins, minerals,and hormones can do nothing without enzymes. With all of these functions to perform, there are literally hundreds of thousands of these “Nature’s workers” in your body.

Types of Enzymes
Enzymes can be divided into three major categories: 1. metabolic enzymes, 2. pancreatic enzymes, and 3. food or plant enzymes.

1. Metabolic Enzymes

Hundreds of thousands of metabolic enzymes are made by the human body, and are responsible for running its chemistry. These enzymes are involved in all body processes including breathing, thinking, talking, moving, and immunity. You may be familiar with antioxidant enzymes, one type of metabolic enzyme manufactured by our bodies. Antioxidant enzymes help to quench free radicals, unhealthy compounds which if left unchecked contribute to the development of disease.

2. Pancreatic Enzymes

In addition to metabolic enzymes, humans (and animals) have digestive enzymes, secreted mainly by the pancreas, but also in the mouth, small intestine,and stomach. These enzymes play a vital role in the digestion of food.

The pancreas is a complex organ, responsible for many functions. A healthy pancreas secretes insulin into the blood, and produces and secretes alkaline fluid (sodium bicarbonate) into the upper portion of the small intestine, which alkalizes the acidic contents that arrive there from the stomach. There are approximately 22 pancreatic enzymes, including amylase, lipase, and proteolytic (breaking down protein) enzymes, such as protease, which continue the digestion of food in the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine) after plant enzymes have begun the digestive process in the stomach.

3. Plant (Food) Enzymes

Plant, or food, enzymes are essential in the proper digestion of food. Present in all raw plants (and also available as supplements), plant enzymes include protease (digests protein), amylase (digests carbohydrates), lipase (digests fat), disaccharidases (digest sugar), and cellulase (digests fiber). Unlike pancreatic enzymes, plant enzymes work in the mouth and the stomach where they predigest foods. Plant enzymes also operate in the small intestine, aiding pancreatic enzymes in continuing the digestive process.

Each plant enzyme does its work only at its own specific pH (see quick definition) and temperature ranges and in the presence of moisture (water). Outside its pH range, the enzyme is deactivated but not destroyed, while outside of its temperature range, the enzyme is denatured (destroyed). Enzymes, more heat-sensitive than vitamins, are destroyed by cooking temperatures above 118? F, pasteurization, canning, and microwaving.

How Plant Enzymes Work

Plant or food enzymes are responsible for three classes of work: pre-digestion, nutritional support, and acute or chronic support.


As discussed, plant enzymes initiate pre-digestion of foods in the upper portion of the stomach. They can eliminate digestive problems leading to food allergies by increasing the supply of the deficient enzyme during this predigestive process.

The main food enzymes which initiate the process of digestion are: protease for protein digestion; lipase for fat digestion; amylase for carbohydrate digestion; disaccharidases for the digestion of disaccharides (sucrose, lactose, and maltose) into simple sugars; and cellulase for the digestion of the soluble parts of fiber into smaller units. Since cellulase is not made by the human body, it’s important to chew all raw foods well in order to release the cellulase enzyme.

Eating a diet rich in raw foods and/or taking plant enzyme supplements will not make your pancreas lazy because pancreatic enzymes don’t operate in the stomach. On the contrary, food enzymes–and only food enzymes–spare the pancreas from having to compensate for inadequate predigestion. The pancreas was never meant to be totally responsible for digestion–early humans consumed primarily raw foods.

Nutritional Support

Food enzymes augment delivery of nutritional support by ensuring digestion of a needed nutrient. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies resulting from a refined-food diet, or the inability to digest whole foods, may be treated by combining small amounts of foods, high in the desired nutrients, with the plant enzymes required to digest them. In this way, the delivery of those nutrients is guaranteed. This is a much better way of relieving nutritional deficiencies than taking isolated vitamins or minerals.

For example, if you have a particular B-vitamin deficiency, taking that one isolated B vitamin will not solve the problem. Instead, taking a combination of brewer’s yeast and the right amount of enzymes required to predigest the yeast, provides the lacking B vitamins in proper ratio with the B complex.


Plant enzymes start digesting food in the mouth and stomach, and they also are active in the small intestine. Pancreatic enzymes (of which there are 22 different kinds) are secreted by the pancreas, located behind the stomach; their work occurs mainly in the small intestine.

Acute or Chronic Support

Taken as a supplement on an empty stomach, plant enzymes enter the bloodstream, where they assist the immune system by digesting and disposing of toxins (any substance that does not belong in the blood) and “eating” the protein coating on certain viruses, enabling immune system workers to then destroy them. Thus, taking enzymes in this way can help reverse inflammation. Each type of enzyme has a specific anti-inflammatory action and will relieve inflammatory conditions related to a deficiency in that enzyme.

Since plant enzymes digest toxins rather than killing them off (as antibiotics do in the case of bacterial infection, for example), the process involves no side effects if the digested toxins can be properly eliminated through the urinary tract, colon, skin,and lungs. Supplemental plant enzymes can thus be used as therapy inthree ways, depending on the particular health condition and needs of the individual: to optimize digestion, absorption, and assimilation of food which in turn keeps a healthy pH balance in the blood; to reverse nutritional deficiencies; and as anti-inflammatories and detoxifying agents.

The Primary Digestive Enzymes

No matter what specific foods we eat, our diets are composed of protein, fat, carbohydrates, sugars (disaccharides), and fiber, and we need the appropriate enzymes (protease, lipase, amylase, disaccharidases, and cellulase) to break them down in digestion. When a person is lacking in one or more of these primary digestive enzymes, the food category associated with that enzyme does not get digested properly and that person is said to be intolerant to that food. For example, without enough protease, a protein-intolerance develops; without sufficient lipase, the individual is fat-intolerant, simply meaning that fat is not being digested properly. When the enzyme deficiency is left untreated, health problems inevitably result. Specific symptoms and conditions tend to develop with each particular enzyme deficiency. Following is a more detailed discussion of the primary digestive enzymes and some of the health problems arising when the enzymes are in short supply.


A Primer on Digestion
Digestion begins in the mouth–if you adequately chew your food–with digestive enzymes secreted by the salivary glands. These enzymes include amylase, lipase, and some protease. Also at work in the mouth are the enzymes present in whatever raw foods are being eaten. In addition to amylase, lipase, and protease, plant enzymes include cellulase, which is not made by the human body.

Salivary enzymes combined with plant enzymes (from either raw foods or taken as a supplement) continue the work of digestion in the upper or cardiac portion of the stomach. For example, amylase will digest up to 60% of carbohydrates, protease up to 30% of protein, and lipase up to 10% of fat, before HCl (hydrochloric or stomach) acid and pepsin (the main enzyme secreted in the stomach) begin to work on food in the stomach. After about an hour, stomach cells, called parietal cells, secrete enough HCl from the blood to further acidify the predigested food to a low pH (from 3.0 to 1.5). This acidic pH temporarily deactivates the plant enzymes, and the predigested food passes to the lower or pyloric portion of the stomach, from which chief cells also secrete pepsin. It is here that pepsin continues the digestion of protein. Adequate HCl is required to activate pepsin from its inactive enzyme form pepsinogen inside the chief cells, and to maintain the stomach pH below 3.0, the optimum pH at which pepsin does its work. In the next stage of digestion, the partially digested food and the deactivated plant (food) enzymes pass through the pyloric valve into the upper part of the small intestine (the duodenum). Here digestion continues, with the help of bile, pancreatic enzymes, and an alkalizing substance (bicarbonate), which reactivates the food enzymes, if there is proper alkalinity. Then digestion continues in the jejunum (next section of the small intestine) where disaccharidases (sugar-digesting enzymes) are secreted if the jejunum is healthy. From the small intestine, the majority of nutrients from digested food are absorbed into the blood.

Protease (digests protein)

Protease digests protein into smaller units called amino acids (see quick definition);not only protein from food, but also other organisms which are composed of protein, such as the coating on certain viruses, toxins from dead bacteria and other microorganisms, and certain harmful substances produced at sites of injury or inflammation.

As mentioned above, someone deficient in protease is protein-intolerant. Although protein-intolerant people may become vegetarians because meat and other high-protein foods don’t “agree” with them, that doesn’t solve their problem. Their bodies can’t digest any form of protein, including that found in vegetables. Both the faulty digestive process and the resulting deficiency in protein lead to a deterioration in health.

A protease deficiency compromises the immune system, leaving a person vulnerable to frequent or chronic infections, either bacterial or viral, and more serious conditions, including cancer. Protease deficiency can also lead to edema (fluid retention) anywhere in the body, including swelling of the hands and feet or fluid in the ears. Toxic colon syndrome (a buildup of toxins in the large intestine) is another result of the inability to digest protein. It can lead to various intestinal problems including chronic constipation, appendicitis, and even colon cancer.

In addition, since about half the protein you digest is converted to sugar, protease deficiency and inadequate protein digestion can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), with such symptoms as moodiness, depression, and irritability.

Protein, when digested properly, supplies acidity to the blood. If protein isn’t digested, the blood acquires excess alkaline reserves, which must be continuously dumped via the kidneys into the urine. These excess alkaline reserves can produce a state of anxiety, often treated with prescription tranquilizers which do nothing to address this simple underlying imbalance. Since calcium is carried in the blood partly bound to digested protein and partly inionic (salt) form, inadequate protein digestion, and the resulting excess alkaline reserves, can lead to calcium metabolism problems, such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc problems, and bone spurs. Protease also plays an important role in preventing and eliminating blood clots.

Protease supplements can be taken with meals to increase digestion of protein. Between meals, protease helps alleviate infections (bacterial and viral), and enhances the immune system in general. Protease alleviates inflammatory conditions of any kind, especially those associated with soft tissue trauma, as occurs in an accident or surgery. I have also had patients who passed large worms while on high doses of protease (not over-the-counter formulas) followed by total relief of symptoms (rashes, anal irritation, and so on). Some but not all types of kidney problems, such as nephritis and drug-induced kidney damage, can often be relieved with protease.

When a person is lacking in one or more of the primary digestive enzymes, the food category associated with that enzyme does not get digested properly and that person is said to be intolerant to that food. When the enzyme deficiency is left untreated, health problems inevitably result.

The only people who cannot tolerate high doses of protease are those who suffer from ulcers, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), or hiatal (in the stomach) hernia, since damaged mucosal tissue in the stomach cannot handle extra acidity from digested protein. Many people have asked if the protease inhibitors currently being used to treat AIDS patients interfere with plant protease. The answer is no, they can be used simtaneously.

Amylase (digests carbohydrates)

Amylase digests carbohydrates (polysaccharides), breaking them down into smaller units called disaccharides, which are later converted into monosaccharides (simple sugars) such as glucose and fructose. People who can’t digest fats often eat–and tolerate–large amounts of sugar to make up for the lack of fat in their diet. If their diet is excessive in sugar, they can develop an amylase deficiency in addition to the original lipase deficiency.

Possessing antihistamine properties amylase can relieve many kinds of skin problems, such as hives and rashes, contact dermatitis, and allergic reactions to bee stings, bug bites, and poison oak or ivy. Amylase, combined with certain herbs, relieves herpes of any kind, including canker sores, genital herpes, shingles, and chickenpox. Combined with certain skin-healing herbs, it can heal acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Although asthma is a direct result of sugar intolerance, amylase combined with lung-healing herbs helps alleviate the wheezing of asthmatics. This combination acts as a lung expectorant and relieves the coughing accompanying colds and bronchitis. Amylase is useful for athletes because it eases muscle soreness and pain following exercise. It also can treat writer’s cramp and joint stiffness that is worse in the morning upon rising or after sitting for long periods.

Amylase is important in preventing the proliferation of dead leukocytes (white blood cells), which manifest as pus. For example, if you have an infected gum area, which antibiotics don’t heal, it may not be an infection, but rather an abscess–that is, pus with no bacteria. With adequate amylase, the abscess could disappear or at least be dramatically diminished within 48 hours.

Lipase (digests fats)

Lipase breaks down neutral fats (triglycerides) into glycerol (an alcohol) and fatty acids (see quick definition). Before lipase can digest fat, bile, an emulsifier or degreaser, must break the fat down into smaller units. People who are low in HCl cannot make adequate bile. HCl deficiency is caused by protease deficiency (required to provide adequate acidity) and lipase deficiency (required to carry chlorides). Thus lipase deficiency, inadequate HCl, and stagnation of bile are interrelated.

There are two types of lipase-deficient people. The first are those who are truly fat intolerant, get sick when they eat fat, and have gallbladder problems. These people substitute sugar for fat. The second are people who are complex-carbohydrate intolerant and make up for it by eating excessive amounts of fat. These people gradually develop a lipase deficiency.

Lipase is important in maintaining optimum cell permeability, which allows nutrients to flow easily into the cells and wastes to flow out. Two conditions arising from lipase deficiency are diabetes and glucosuria (sugar in the urine without symptoms of diabetes). Most people associate diabetes with sugar intolerance, but fat intolerance is the major enzyme culprit. The inability to digest fat interferes with insulin metabolism and the transport of glucose into the cell by insulin.

Lipase-deficient people may also have one or more of the following conditions or a tendency towards them: high cholesterol and/or high blood triglycerides, high blood pressure difficulty losing weight, and varicose veins. They may also be deficient in many fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins A, D, and E.

Disaccharidases (digest sugar)

People who cannot tolerate sugar or disaccharides tend to turn consume more protein. This is a good choice because 46% of digested protein is converted to glucose upon demand and glucose is a major source of energy for the brain and cells. Disaccharidases (sometimes called carbohydrases) break down disaccharides into simple sugars such as glucose and fructose. The three major disaccharides are sucrose (cane sugar), lactose (milk sugar), and maltose (grain sugar). In particular, the digestion of sucrose produces glucose plus fructose; lactose produces glucose plus galactose; and maltose produces two glucose units.

Probably the major cause of sugar intolerance is excessive consumption of refined sugars. Just as an enzyme deficiency can produce intolerance to the food digested by that enzyme, eating too much of that food can result in intolerance to it because the body is unable to keep up with the demand for the enzyme necessary to digest it, and deficiency results.

Thus, eating too much sugar leads to a deficiency in disaccharidases and sugar intolerance develops. For most people in the United States, it is likely that both factors–intitial enzyme deficiency along with excess consumption of sugar–are in operation due to the lack of enzymes in the standard American diet of refined, processed foods and the average per-person consumption of 150 pounds of sugar every year. Before the advent of the processed food industry, Americans consumed an average of only five pounds of sugar per year. This excessive sugar consumption is far beyond the capacity of the small intestine to produce enough disaccharidases to digest all that sugar.

There are physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of a deficiency of disaccharidases and the attendant sugar intolerance. Many of these symptoms also occur in people who have an under active thyroid gland (hypothyroidism, see quick definition). Common physical symptoms include diarrhea, especially from lactose intolerance, but both diarrhea and constipation may result from maltose and sucrose intolerance as well. Lung problems, especially asthma are common in sugar-intolerant people. People with environmental illness also fall into this category.

Spaciness or dizziness that is worse when bending over is linked to sugar intolerance. If severe enough, a seizure disorder can develop, especially if refined sugar is consumed. Sugar-intolerant people often complain that they fall asleep easily but cannot stay asleep.

Mental and emotional problems include depression, mood swings, angry, aggressive, or violent behavior, severe panic attacks (often requiring prescription medication), manic-depression (bipolar disorders), and hyperactivity/attention deficit disorder (ADD). The proliferation of the fungus Candida albicans (see quick definition), a condition called candidiasis, is also linked to a deficiency of disaccharidases and the sugar intolerance that goes along with it. There are about 2,500 forms of yeast-fungi and all of them live on sugar, especially sucrose. In fact, the fungi make an enzyme that can digest sugar for their use. All of these fungi can be digested by cellulase (described below) but a primary cause of pathogenic yeast overgrowth is excessive sugar consumption coupled with frequent antibiotic use.

Cellulase (digests soluble fiber)

The pancreas can manufacture enzymes similar to all of those found in plants(including protease, amylase, lipase, and disaccharidases) with the exception of cellulase. As mentioned previously, cellulase is not made in the body and can be obtained only from food sources or enzyme supplements. Cellulase digests the soluble parts of fiber into smaller units which are eventually converted to glucose. In this process, the beneficial soluble fibers are released. All raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain cellulase.

There are conditions arising from other enzyme deficiencies, which are relieved or cured by cellulase. For example, the yeast overgrowth discussed above, caused by sugar intolerance among other factors, can be alleviated by cellulase which digests the yeast-fungi.

Cellulase also digests certain neurotoxins in the colon, which cause facial pain orneuralgia and facial paralysis (Bell’s Palsy). An enzyme formula containing cellulase and antioxidants can bring relief to these conditions within two weeks. Finally, cellulase, along with other enzymes, can alleviate acute food allergies, which, again, are created by faulty digestion due to enzyme deficiencies.

A Healthy Diet is the Best Source of Enzymes

To ensure that your body gets the enzymes it needs for optimum digestion, the best approach is to go to the source–your diet. It should be enzyme-rich, with a wide variety of organic, whole, unprocessed foods. Foods in their whole, unaltered state have the ideal ratio of enzymes needed to digest them. For example, an apple, which is high in carbohydrates, contains more amylase than an avocado, which has a high concentration of fat and is high in lipase.

Most importantly, foods should be eaten raw or, at the most, lightly steamed. There are a few exceptions: seeds, nuts, grains, and beans have enzyme inhibitors, which should be deactivated by soaking, cooking, or sprouting. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, contain compounds that can inhibit the function of the thyroid gland and should not be eaten raw but lightly steamed. To ensure optimum health, eat a broad variety of organic raw fruits and vegetables, cooked whole grains, and enough protein from fish, organic meat, poultry, and eggs, and raw or cultured dairy–and your body will take care of the rest.