Systemic inflammation is at the root of many health disorders. And yet, it’s rarely talked about. Many of my clients have never heard of it. Even fewer know about using proteolytic enzymes for pain and inflammation.
Proteolytic enzymes (also called systemic enzymes) are specially formulated enzyme supplements designed to “clean up” pro-inflammatory molecules in your blood.
What that means is:
Systemic enzymes get rid of all the yucky crud that makes your body ache.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we talk about using proteolytic enzymes for pain and inflammation, let’s talk about what systemic inflammation is, and how to know if you have it.
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What Is Systemic Inflammation?
Chronic — or systemic — inflammation happens when your immune system becomes overstimulated.
The things that overload your immune system range from stress, lack of sleep and over-exercising to consuming inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol.
How would you know if systemic inflammation is contributing to your pain? Good question.
Here are some common symptoms of systemic inflammation:
- Body Pain
- Mood disorders
- Acid Reflux
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Weight Gain
- Frequent Infections
If you regularly experience any of the above symptoms, systemic inflammation could be to blame.
Your doctor can administer a blood test to measure inflammatory markers. The most common and affordable option is to test for elevated C-reactive protein.
One thing to know:
While this test does measure inflammation, it won’t specifically tell you whether an elevated level is due to chronic inflammation or a result of recent illness or injury.
But it’s a great place to start.
What Are The Health Risks of Systemic Inflammation?
You might be wondering:
Should I be worried about systemic inflammation?
I mean, if you’ve never heard about this condition before, how scary can it be?
Pretty scary. Systemic inflammation is at the root of many serious or even deadly health conditions.
Chronic inflammation causes your body to produce excess fibrin — a type of tissue that forms a mesh and impedes blood flow. Too much fibrin increases your risk for cardiac arrest and stroke.
Symptoms of too much fibrin in your body include:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Poor Healing
- High Blood Pressure
In addition to causing excessive fibrin production, systemic inflammation is at the root of many autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus.
Controlling inflammation is the foundation of good health. From a pain management standpoint, no amount of stretching or massage will combat muscle soreness stemming from systemic inflammation.
Which brings me to…
Proteolytic Enzymes for Pain and Inflammation
What are enzymes?
Enzymes are basically just energized protein molecules. Inside your body, enzymes digest food and support metabolic processes.
Your body uses between 50,000 to 70,000 different types of enzymes, all of which are essential to life.
When enzymes are in your stomach or digestive tract, they break down food. But when they’re in your bloodstream, enzymes act as blood cleansers, dissolving pro-inflammatory proteins.
While digestive enzymes are beneficial to aid in breaking down and assimilating food, systemic enzymes—those in your bloodstream—are the ones we’ll focus on here.
Health Benefits of Proteolytic Enzymes
Proteolytic enzymes provide many wonderful benefits to your health. In addition to controlling pain and inflammation, systemic enzymes improve blood flow, dissolve blood clots, and help to alleviate allergy symptoms.
These powerful enzymes also destroy invading bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and fungi by breaking down the protein coating that protects them from your immune system.
They can prevent delayed onset muscle soreness — the achiness you feel after working out — and speed athletic recovery.
Yes, that nasty mesh of tissue that increases your risk of heart attack and stroke can be defeated by a simple protein-dissolving enzyme.
In breaking down fibrin, proteolytic enzymes also help to disintegrate arterial plaque that can lead to a heart attack.
As if that weren’t enough, cancer cells also hide beneath webs of fibrin, making it impossible for the immune system to attack them. So, proteolytic enzymes may be useful in preventing some types of cancer (although to my knowledge there are no definitive studies on this to date).
How to Use Proteolytic Enzymes for Pain and Inflammation
Your body stops producing enzymes as you get older. And by older, I mean that enzyme production dramatically plummets past age 27.
So, how do you get more enzymes into your body?
Fresh fruits and vegetables supply some enzymes, but cooking destroys them. Digestive enzyme supplements will aid in breaking down food, but they never make it into your bloodstream.
Supplementation is the only way to introduce high levels of proteolytic enzymes into your body.
Although, in order to reap the benefits of proteolytic enzymes in your body, you have to take specially formulated systemic enzymes. These enzymes are coated in a substance that allows them to survive harsh stomach acid.
Proteolytic enzyme supplements must be taken on an empty stomach so as not to get tangled up in any food (at which point they just become very expensive digestive enzymes).
Where Do Proteolytic Enzymes Come From?
Enzymes can be derived from either plant or animal sources. In particular, an enzyme called pancreatin is derived from the pancreas of animals.
Some researchers claim that animal-sourced pancreatin stays active in the body longer while others favor plant-based pancreatin derived from fungus.
Ultimately, whether you choose animal or vegetable-based enzymes will depend on personal preference.
Are Proteolytic Enzyme Supplements Safe?
All changes to your supplement routine should be run by your doctor first, just to be sure. But enzymes are generally regarded as safe.
They’ve been in wide use across Europe for more than fifty years. However, proteolytic enzymes can have a blood thinning effect.
As such, they can be contraindicated if you’re taking prescription blood thinners already or have an upcoming surgery.
Where Do I Find The Best Proteolytic Enzymes for Pain and Inflammation?
New enzyme formulas are constantly popping onto the market here in the US as more companies become aware of the power that enzymes have to heal our bodies on nearly every level.
Additionally, research into the field of proteolytic enzymes is constantly evolving. While there are multiple quality products on the market, selecting the right one can be overwhelming.
To take the guesswork out of it, you can find my fave proteolytic enzyme supplement for pain and inflammation in my recommended resources.
I constantly update these products as I discover new and better options.6