Proteolytic enzymes, also referred to as "proteases," are enzymes that break down proteins into their smallest elements. If this breakdown of proteins happens in your gut, we call the enzymes "digestive," because they help us digest our food. Systemic proteolytic enzymes, however, have a completely different purpose, so please don't confuse the two.

When taken on an empty stomach, proteolytic enzymes will pass through the stomach or intestine lining and enter the circulatory system. This is why they are called "systemic"—once they enter the circulatory system, they circulate throughout the body.

Why are systemic proteolytic enzymes important?

The most important thing that systemic proteolytic enzymes do is to break down excess fibrin in your circulatory system and in other connective tissue, such as your muscles. These enzymes bring nutrients and oxygen-rich blood that remove the metabolic waste produced by inflammation and excess fibrin.

For example, If you have an injury or are recovering from a painful condition of any kind and your blood flow is restricted, you will have a longer recovery process. In addition, the exchange of nutrients and oxygen in your body will be limited, and there will be an will have a longer recovery but an increase in pain and inflammation.

I searched long and hard to find this incredible image (left) of red blood cells caught in a web of excess fibrin. The fibrin is causing a physical restriction of blood flow. If you look closely, you can see that the cells are actually stuck. Ultimately, those red blood cells cannot get into the capillaries to oxygenate and nourish your muscles and remove the metabolic waste that is causing your pain.

One more important thing to understand: Whenever you're recovering from a muscle irritation, injury, or surgery, the body uses fibrin to help heal itself. This is normal and healthy. The only problem is that with poor blood flow and a lack of enzyme activity, that fibrin will start to accumulate. If the area in question is slow to heal, an excess of fibrin will appear as clumps of scar tissue in the muscle or at the surgical site. Once this happens, you acute condition becomes chronic.

Now that you know that excess fibrin throughout your circulatory system will severely limit the amount of blood flow to areas that need it the most, you may be wondering how the body tries to compensate for this restriction. The answer is simple: by forcing the heart to work harder and increasing your blood pressure.

How do you know if you have too much fibrin?

As I have noted, the body will do what it needs to do to keep us alive—sometimes at great cost to your overall health. Some possible indicators of excess fibrin in your system include: chronic fatigue, slow healing, inflammation and pain, and elevated blood pressure. There is also a medical test to measure something called "blood monomers."

The dangers of too much fibrin…

The medical community has long known that excess fibrin presents a cardiac and stroke risk. Finally, they have acknowledged a link between excess fibrin and chronic systemic inflammation, the true root cause of virtually every disease and painful condition know to man.

Which conditions do proteolytic enzymes help and how?

The list below is only a sample of the types of conditions that can be addressed with systemic proteolytic enzymes. If you are still wondering how one little substance can support all of these conditions, remember that they all have one thing in common—excess fibrin, which causes a reduction in blood flow.

Arthritis - Herniated Disc
Atherosclerosis - Hyper-coagulation
Back Pain - Sciatica
Chronic Fatigue - Spinal Stenosis
Chronic Pain - Strains and Sprains
Fibrocystic Breast - Post-operative Scar Tissue
Fibromyalgia - Traumatic Inflammation
High Blood Pressure - Uterine Fibroids

Which would you rather take—a pain killer or a healing enzyme?

Truth is, very few pain killers help heal the body, and in most cases the side effects are rather unpleasant. On the other hand, systemic proteolytic enzymes support the body's ability to heal itself, and they reduce the signs and symptoms of a chronic condition.

Can proteolytic enzymes be used with other pain meds?

I knew you were going to ask. Yes, enzymes can used if you are taking low-dose non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as long as they are taken 60 minutes apart.

How about clinical research?

Where is the proof? There are untold numbers of clinical studies that have been done on proteolytic enzymes, and we have 76 of the most relevant studies listed on our site. Let's not forget that these enzymes have been in use in Europe for more than 50 years. And in Japan, some proteolytic enzymes are classified as prescription drugs.

Where do proteolytic enzymes come form?

Some are animal-bases, some are plant-based—such as Bromelain and Papain—and some are fungus-based, such as Serrazimes®.

Which types are best and why?

I recommend plant- and fungus-based enzymes because they tolerate the gastric environment better, so more of the enzymes make their way into the circulatory system.

How long does it take to start to work?
Enzymes go to work immediately. The big difference between enzymes and vitamins is the way they are measured. Enzymes are not measured by weight; they are measured in Units of Fibrolytic Activity, which means how much fibrin they break down in a set amount of time.

The questions you really want answered are: "How long will it take to get pain relief and reduce my inflammation?" and "How fast will my healing happen?" Truth is, there is no simple answer because the healing process and outcome will be different for everyone.

There are a number of factors that bear on how fast the enzymes will work for you, including dosage, quality of sleep, diet, and physical activity. Even the very treatments you are undergoing to try to get better could be holding you back.

Are proteolytic enzymes safe for continued use?

Yes, proteolytic enzymes should be considered safe for continued use. There are three suggested usage protocols: one is a rotation of 12 weeks on and 4 weeks off; two is to take them continuously; and three is to take them on as-needed basis.

Who should not take proteolytic enzymes?
- Individuals taking prescription blood thinners (Coumadin, Heparin, Plavix)
- Anyone who will be having surgery in less than two weeks
- Individuals with known ulcers of the stomach
- Individuals with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.(GERD)
- Pregnant or lactating women
- Individuals currently taking antibiotics
- Individuals with an allergic reaction to pineapples or papayas

Are there any side effects?

Proteolytic enzymes have an excellent safety record, with no significant side effects reported. With any supplement, however, there is always the risk of developing an allergy to one or more ingredients. If this happens, you should discontinue use.

Choosing to try systemic proteolytic enzymes.

Remember, the enzymes are supporting the healing process, so recovery from any condition is going to take time. You don't just take the enzymes and expect to get better immediately. By using these enzymes as part of a well-planned recovery process, you're making a commitment to doing what it takes to make improvements in your life.

Everything I've told you so far I learned from people who are far more knowledgeable than I am about the role enzymes play in helping us achieve optimal health.

So, when I say that I had a hand in creating Lifezyme—albeit a small hand—I nevertheless did my part, which was to find the world's best enzyme formulators. Once I had done that, I told them to make me the best product in the world—and that's exactly what they did.

Without question, the Lifezyme Plus formula has the highest fibrolytic activity of any product in the world per dose. Our formulators blended 11 ingredients that would have a cascading effect, which means that they help support the work of the enzymes and deliver even more beneficial results.

I'm not a big fan of taking a lot of supplements. I drink my multivitamin and pop my enzymes—that's it. I know that trying to figure out which supplements to take can be overwhelming and that taking supplements can get expensive. Still, I look at supplements as a long-term investment toward achieving optimal health.

So, if working toward optimal health is your goal and you think that your life and your body would benefit form having less fibrin and better blood flow, then you should seriously consider enzymes.

If you do decide to try enzymes, do me one favor: Never—ever—buy an enzyme that lists the dose in milligrams (mg) or has "Proprietary Enzyme Blend" on the label.

Enzymes are not measured in mg and should not be sold in mg. "Proprietary Enzyme Blend" is a shady way of not telling you the consumer how much enzyme is in the product, so don't support a company that cannot be honest with you. Demand full disclosure on the label.

Author's Bio: 

To learn more about proteolytic enzymes and the roll they play in help us stay healthy, I suggest you read this article: