Proteolytic enzymes are a class of enzymes that break the long chain-like molecules of proteins into shorter fragments called peptides and constituent amino acids. Often, they are referred to asproteinase, protease, or peptidase, and the stomach and pancreas produce them. These enzymes function to aid the digestion of dietary proteins and hinder blood clotting.

Enzymes conduct infinite daily reactions in the body to keep us functioning. Proteolytic enzymes are essential in helping break down proteins and are located in the body, certain foods, and other dietary supplements. Some of their functions in the body include facilitation of cell division, immune function, and protein recycling, among others. Due to their key role to the human body, it is vital to discuss them. This blog will explore the sources, functioning, and benefits of proteolytic enzymes.


There are three main sources of proteolytic enzymes produced naturally in the body. They include chymotrypsin, trypsin, and pepsin. The body produces them to break down dietary proteins such as eggs, fish, and meat into smaller portions referred to as amino acids. These enzymes are also contained naturally in certain foods and supplements.

Food Sources

The best sources of such proteinous enzymes are pineapple and papaya. Pineapples have a strong proteolytic enzyme called bromelain extracted from the pineapple plant’s skin, fruit, and sweet juice and have been used for a long period. They have been used by Indigenous people of South and Central America as a natural treatment for certain ailments. On the other hand, papaya has an enzyme called papain and is extracted from the leaves, the fruit of roots of the papaya plant.

Papain is a powerful proteolytic enzyme that has been utilized for many years as a meat tenderizer because of its ability to break down protein. Besides, both enzymes are bought in concentrated supplement form, but other dietary sources can supplement that, including ginger, yogurt, kimchi, kiwifruit, asparagus, sauerkraut, and kefir.


The human body requires both systemic enzymes to help the body’s various regulatory and communication systems and digestive enzymes that break down different foods. Enzymes are biological reactions in the body and are capable of being used many times. They are needed for every chemical action that occurs in our bodies. The digestive system, bloodstream, immune system, kidneys, liver, spleen, and pancreas is controlled by enzymes.

Additionally, the ability to see, feel, think and breathe also depends on enzymes. The mucus secreted by the intestinal cells and amino acid protects against digestion of the small wall by the activated proteolytic enzymes.  These enzymes are also called proteases and have three main classes trypsin, pepsin, and chymotrypsin. The protease enzymes break down protein found in poultry, nuts, meat, eggs, and cheese. They help people with food allergies or those with severe protein indigestion.


Control Inflammation and Boost Blood Flow

Proteolytic enzymes are important regulators and modulators that are required to respond to stresses in the body. These enzymes aid our bodies in responding to inflammation by providing protection. Research shows that these enzymes help in modulating the inflammatory process by a variety of mechanisms. These include lowering mucous membranes’ swelling, reducing the capillary permeability, and dissolving blood clot-forming fibrin deposits and microthrombi. Studies reveal that by lowering the viscosity of blood, enzymes boost circulation.

Consequently, it elevates the supply of nutrients and oxygen and the transport of dangerous waste products away from traumatized tissue. Proteolytic enzymes also assist in the metabolism of plasma protein and cellular debris at the injury point into smaller fragments. It facilitates their passage through the lymphatic system leading to a more rapid resolution of swelling with the consequent relief of pain and discomfort in the bones and joints affected.

Therefore, these enzymes can treat osteoarthritis and help athletes recover faster from hard workouts and races. Scientists indicate that bromelain, pancreatin, papain, trypsin, chymotrypsin, and rutin act as essential regulators and modulators of the inflammatory response.

Anti-Cancer Effects

Studies explain that the nutrients in some proteolytic enzyme foods have to combat some cancers like colon cancer. For example, the fiber in foods like papaya can bind cancer-causing toxins in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells. Additionally, papaya’s folate, beta-carotene, vitamins C and E have been linked with de-escalated risk of colon cancer.

Laboratory studies have revealed that proteolytic enzymes may affect the growth of some cancer cells. Bromelain prevents growth and induces the death of human colon and stomach cancer cells. A test-tube study shows that papain and bromelain curtail the growth and cause cell death in human bile duct cancer cells. The research found that bromelain extracted from pineapple stems exerted cancer-fighting effects on colon cancer cells. It proposed that both bromelain and bromelain-containing foods such as pineapples may assist in the prevention of colon cancer.

Boosts Digestion

Major uses for proteolytic enzymes are to boost the digestion and absorption of dietary protein. Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) is utilized to diagnose cystic fibrosis, pancreatic insufficiency, and certain cancers like colorectal, pancreatic, and stomach cancer. Both supplements and foods having proteolytic enzymes can help protein digestion.

Consuming enzyme supplements can help those with a deficiency or void of these enzymes properly break down and digest dietary protein. Several studies show that kiwifruit extract aids in boosting the breakdown and digestion of proteins, milk, eggs, meat, fish, and cheese.


Proteolytic enzymes refer to digestive enzymes required to digest protein and break them into constituent amino acids. Benefits, like preventing heart disease, controlling inflammation, anti-cancer properties, and protecting the colon from oxidative stress, are associated with proteolytic enzymes. Foods that assist in providing proteolytic enzymes include papaya, pineapple, kiwi, fermented dairy, sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi. However, there are side effects linked with proteolytic enzymes. They include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping, headache, dizziness, swelling, and changes in blood sugar. Also, papaya enzymes should not be consumed during pregnancy because they may cause miscarriage. Seek guidance before supplanting with enzymes.

Charlotte Cremers

MS, University of Tartu Sleep specialist Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.