Digestion : Enzymes: The Best Supplements You Probably Aren't Taking

By Michael T. Murray, ND

While not yet part of most people's daily regimen, enzymes are among the most useful nutritional supplements available. Enzymes are molecules that speed up chemical reactions -- they either help build new molecules or break down molecules into smaller components. In terms of a health bonus, this translates into an effective digestive boost -- proteolytic enzymes (proteases) help you break down the proteins in food more quickly.

It's fairly standard practice to use these enzymes to help improve digestion and relieve bothersome abdominal bloating and excessive flatulence. However, more recent clinical research suggests a broader range of potential benefits. These enzymes seem to be quite useful for the following conditions:
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis C
  • Herpes zoster (shingles)
  • Inflammation, sports injuries, and trauma
  • Food allergies
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders
Choosing the Best Enzyme Supplement

To get the most out of proteolytic enzymes, you need to determine both quality and dosage. Of course, it's important to know what you are looking for. Most of the proteolytic enzymes have well-established guidelines developed by the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) or the Food Chemical Codex (FCC). A mixture of proteolytic enzymes will produce better results than any single enzyme.

Pleasingly Safe

Proteolytic enzymes have an excellent safety profile. Even in people with presumably normal pancreatic function, pancreatic enzymes produced no untoward side effects, nor did they reduce the capacity for subjects to produce their own pancreatic enzymes in a 1998 study published in the journal International Journal of Pancreatology.

However, allergic reactions may occur (as with most therapeutic agents). Pancreatic enzymes should not be used by anyone allergic to pork; bromelain should not be used in anyone allergic to pineapple; and papain should not be used in anyone sensitive to papaya. Also, as the effects of proteolytic enzymes during pregnancy and lactation have not been sufficiently evaluated, they should not be used during these times unless directed to do so by a physician.

This article is reprinted with permission from Dr. Michael Murray's Natural Living News. For more articles like this one, visit www.DoctorMurray.com/NLN.

Dr. Michael T. Murray is one of the world's leading authorities on natural medicine and the author of more than 30 bestselling books, including The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. He is a graduate and former faculty member, and serves on the Board of Regents, of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington.
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