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Bromelain and papain are enzymes that break down proteins. Bromelain is derived from the pineapple, while papain comes from papaya plants. Bromelain and papain supplements are generally taken with the intention of reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and improving digestion. Some people take these supplements in an attempt to reduce food allergies and symptoms of autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Proteolytic enzymes is the term used for enzymes that break down protein. Other forms of enzymes are lipase, which break down fat, and amylase, which break down carbohydrates. Enzymes are an important part of the digestive system because they improve the absorption of nutrient by the body.
The body produces proteolytic enzymes naturally in the pancreas. Individuals wishing to supplement natural levels of proteolytic enzymes can choose over the counter bromelain and papain supplements. Another source for over the counter proteolytic supplementation is chymotrypsin and trypsin, which is derived from livestock.
The amount of bromelain and papain available in pineapples and papayas is not high enough to supplement by eating the fruits alone. Individuals wishing to supplement with these enzymes will need to take over the counter supplements. Bromelain and papain are available packaged individually or as part of supplement blends marketed to ease indigestion and reduce inflammation.
There are varying levels of scientific research that determine the effectiveness of each enzyme to treat different health conditions. Bromelain is used as a treatment for inflammation and indigestion. Bromelain is particularly effective at treating inflammation that develops as a result of injury or infection.
Some healthcare providers use a topical ointment containing bromelain as a burn dressing to debride the wound. Topical bromelain also reduces swellings from stings and insect bites. Bromelain can ease indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, and upset stomachs.
Papain may fight the herpes zoster virus that causes shingles. It may also ease swelling and soreness in the throat. In some cases, papain has been used to treat digestive issues, intestinal worms, and infected wounds, but the research is not conclusive on these issues. Some people may experience throat or stomach irritation when taking papain supplements. Individuals with bleeding disorders, who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who are allergic to figs or kiwi should not take papain.
Bromelain and papain are generally considered safe, although some people experience mild side effects from taking papain. Individuals who choose to supplement with bromelain and papain pills should notify their healthcare provider of this, along with any other supplements they are taking. This reduces the risks of drug interactions or side effects.