Proteolytic Enzymes and Inflammation

Following injury, whether from a specific traumatic event or as a result of accumulative, repetitive stress, our body responds by initiating an inflammatory cascade of events targeting the injured tissue. This inflammatory response is carried out by a predictable series of events intended to clean up cellular debris, repair the insulted tissue, and allow return to normal function over the course of weeks to months. During this time, it is imperative to balance appropriate and necessary tissue stress vs. further tissue damage, which would bring additional inflammation to the area and potentially delay or impair healing. 

This image provides an overview of the inflammatory process (image credit:lakeviewosteopathy.co.uk)

This image provides an overview of the inflammatory process (image credit:lakeviewosteopathy.co.uk)

Proteolytic enzymes are naturally occurring enzymes in our bodies and perform numerous functions. In regards to inflammation they can assist in the process by neutralizing biochemicals of inflammation, such as bradykinins and pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, to levels that optimize our body’s ability to synthesize, repair and regenerate injured tissues. Proteolytic enzymes also assist with repair by “digesting” organic debris and scar tissue.

If you are wanting a potent, therapeutic dose you may choose to use a supplemental form. Below are some tips to maximize the benefits:

  • Take enzyme supplements between meals when stomach pH is higher and more enzymes in active form have been found to enter systemic blood flow (though this evidence is controversial)
  • Add more raw foods to your diet 
  • Cut out processed foods
  • Chew your food properly so it thoroughly mixes with the enzymes in your saliva
  • It is often recommended to work up to 3-4 times the recommended dose on the label for acute, therapeutic effects (be aware of blood thinning effects)


Many people eat foods that are enzyme deficient, as cooking & processing destroy enzymes. This is often compounded by eating habits that increase the burden of digestion and then our bodies are required to produce/use these enzymes for digestion vs. having more available for systemic use to assist in the inflammatory control process. 

Diet ideas for enzyme-rich foods:

  • Papaya, pineapple, ginger, mango, kiwi, and grapes
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Raw honey
  • Bee pollen
  • Raw meat and dairy
  • Sprouted grains
  • Kombucha Tea


So, next time you want to reach for NSAIDs, perhaps you will think twice and give proteolytic enzymes a chance.

Written by: Katy Scott, DPT, NTP, cert. MDT

Rachel KrahenbuhlComment