Many people have begun taking proteolytic enzymes for the numerous health benefits they have to offer. One of the most popular of these enzymes is papain and for good reason.
But, despite its popularity, you may not have heard of this health-boosting enzyme, so we’re going to break down, exactly what papain is, how it works in your body, and what it can do for your health.
What is Papain?
As we said, papain is a proteolytic enzyme. Put simply, that’s a type of enzyme that breaks down proteins into their smaller forms.
Because of this function, papain is often used in meat tenderizers and there are numerous papain health benefits you can take advantage of.
You can get papain in your diet by eating raw papaya. But, you’d have to eat a LOT of fruit every day to see a difference. Papain is also available in powder form in capsules.
Let’s take a look at the six most important papain health benefits and its side effects so that you can determine whether taking papain is the right choice for you.
1. Supports healthy digestion
You know how we said that proteolytic enzymes break down proteins?
Well, that also makes them the perfect for supporting healthy digestion too.
You see, you don’t always have the right amount of acid in your stomach to help break down the food you eat. When this happens, you can end up with gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort.
Luckily, papain helps you overcome those problems.
It enhances your digestion process and breaks down those potentially irritating foods so that you can feel better.
In fact, one study shows that a papaya preparation not only contributes to the maintenance of a healthy digestive tract it can also ease the problems associated with poor digestion, like that bloating and stomach discomfort1.
2. Promotes faster recovery following exercise
Have you ever begun an exercise program only to have to stop after the first day because your muscles were too tight and uncomfortable from your workout?
If so, you know that nothing can derail your plans to get in shape more quickly.
But, you don’t have to live with those twinges every time you move or give up your workout.
One of the biggest papain powder health benefits is its ability to ease discomfort and promote a faster recovery after physical activity – effects confirmed in a study reported in the Journal of Sports Science…2
For the trial, one group of men took a combination of enzymes, including papain, for four days, starting one day before a strenuous downhill run.
Another group took a placebo.
And, guess what?
The men who took the papain experienced less muscle discomfort and recovered more quickly than the placebo group.
3. Supports a healthy immune system
The papain powder health benefits don’t end there either…
Every time you take papain, you’re doing something healthy for your immune system too.
Put simply, a healthy immune system is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It doesn’t react too much or too little but just right.
That’s an immune system that is over-reactive opens the door to worrisome health concerns. And an immune system that doesn’t react enough does the same.”
The good news is that both in vivo and in vitro studies have shown that papain contributes to healthy immune system modulation3.
In other words, it helps to support healthy immune system action so it knows what to react to and when.
How does it work?
Well, you may have heard the statistics that your digestive system makes up 70 to 80% of your immune system. And, it’s true.
So, if a healthy digestive system equals a healthy immune system, everything you do to keep your digestion humming along also optimizes your immune response too.
4. Supports a healthy inflammatory response
There’s one more big papain health benefit you need to be aware of…
Its ability to support a healthy inflammatory response.
This ability all comes from the fact that papain is loaded with antioxidants4.
These antioxidants scavenge your body for free radicals that cause tissue oxidation and damage and neutralize them.
Since antioxidants have the power to defend against free radical damage, they also have the power to promote healthy inflammation levels.
And, a study that showed that papain supports a healthy immune system, confirmed those facts, demonstrating it also supports a balanced inflammatory response5.
5. Supports healthy wound healing
Did you know that a protein known as fibrin plays a vital part in healing every wound that happens in your body?
That’s because whenever you’re hurt, fibrin is the soldier sent in to hold down the fort. It keeps your red blood cells and platelets in place to give everything a chance to heal properly.
And, when it’s done its job, your body dissolves that fibrin and it goes back to wait for the next time it’s needed.
The problem is, that doesn’t always happen.
Things like health problems and age can interfere in our body’s ability to heal wounds in a healthy way. This leads to fibrin buildup and causes those discomforts that never seem to go away.
Luckily, studies at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York found that papain supports normal fibrin activity which promotes healthy wound healing6.
6. Supports healthy joints
Many of us live with joint discomfort as we age. Activities that used to be easy, like getting out of bed in the morning, can become more and more difficult with each passing year.
But, papain helps you overcome irritated joints and support joint health two ways…
First, like we talked about earlier, papain has the power to support a healthy inflammatory response. Since healthy inflammation levels support healthy joints, this can make a big difference in how you feel.
And second, papain has been shown to ease joint discomfort so that you can move better and stay active.
In fact, a study reported in the International Journal of Biology and Biotechnology found that combining enzymes like papain with treatments like physical therapy in patients with knee concerns7:
- Improved discomfort
- Allowed for better movement
- Helped patients use more muscle strength in their exercises
- Resulted in significant functional improvements
Clearly, taking papain is one of the best things you can do to maintain healthy joints.
Side Effects of Papain
Now that we’ve gone over the many papain health benefits you can grab by taking the enzyme, let’s take a quick look at a few possible side effects to keep in mind.
First, although it’s not common, some people may be allergic to papain.
It makes sense that if you’re allergic to papaya, you’re also allergic to papain since it comes from the papaya fruit.
People who are allergic to kiwis are sometimes allergic to papain as well.
If you’re allergic to latex, you should also skip the papain since you could be sensitive to the fruit.
It’s also important to know that papain can lower blood sugar so if you’re taking medicines for diabetes or already have problems with low blood sugar, talk to your doctor before taking the enzyme.
Papain also increases bleeding risk so if you’re taking blood thinners or planning or have problems with blood clotting, it’s not the right choice for you. You should also stop taking the enzyme at least two weeks prior to any surgeries.
And finally, don’t take papain if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant since it could harm the baby.
Using a Supplement to Grab All of the Papain Health Benefits
Research shows papain could help you support a healthy digestion, immune and inflammation responses, maintain healthy joints, recover more quickly after exercise and even promote healthy wound healing.
But, while you can get papain from fresh papaya, the likelihood that you’ll eat enough of the fruit on a daily basis to grab all of these benefits is slim.
That’s why it’s important to take a quality papain supplement daily to get your daily dose of the proteolytic enzyme that delivers such a healthy punch in one small nutrient.
Papain is one of the primary ingredients in our supplement Heal-n-Soothe®.
We use a proprietary blend of five proteolytic enzymes and 12 herbal extracts to deliver powerful health benefits to your entire body.
1. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34(1):38-46.
2. J Sports Sci. 2004 Apr;22(4):365-72.
3. J Immunotoxicol. 2016 Jul;13(4):590-602. doi: 10.3109/1547691X.2016.1149528. Epub 2016 Jul 14.
4. J Immunotoxicol. 2016 Jul;13(4):590-602. doi: 10.3109/1547691X.2016.1149528. Epub 2016 Jul 14.
5. J Immunotoxicol. 2016 Jul;13(4):590-602. doi: 10.3109/1547691X.2016.1149528. Epub 2016 Jul 14.
6. Jon Barron. Accessed 6 Jun. 2019.
7. Academia.edu. Accessed 6 Jun. 2019.