Updated: Mar 3
Enzyme therapy can be a safe and effective supportive treatment for inflammation and auto immunity and has an excellent clinical track record. Enzyme therapy uses specific protein digestive enzymes (proteolytic enzymes) taken on an empty stomach to break down and eliminate problematic proteins in the body whether these are food antigens, blood clots, fibrous tissue, bacteria, yeast and fungi/mould. Taking proteolytic enzymes can be an effective treatment as `Everything that makes us sick is either a protein or is protected by a protein’ (Barron, J, 2014). Bacteria, viruses, yeasts and fungi are all protected by proteins in the form of biofilms. So attacking and gobbling up these proteins is key to eliminating these foreign invaders as they can often be difficult to get to with other methods of treatment.
According to Bohager (1999) ` The immune system’s ability to fight off invaders depends on the enzyme protease, which breaks down proteins. Most types of illnesses are in some way related to proteins. For example, cancer cells are surrounded by the protein fibrin. The blood clots that cause strokes and a high percentage of heart attacks are made up of this same protein. Pathogenic bacteria and parasites are comprised of proteins, viruses are enveloped by protein and fungal forms such as Candida contain a protein nucleus surrounded by a chitin shell'. So if someone has a weakened immune system and picks up many viral and bacterial infections, they are likely to be deficient in the enzyme protease.
According to Barron (2014) `Proteolytic enzymes have the ability to digest and destroy the protein base defense shield of each and every pathogen, allergen and rogue cell, thereby leading to the ultimate elimination'.
How this relates to auto immunity is that proteolytic enzymes have the ability to attack and digest the Circulating Immune Complexes (CIC) that in auto immune conditions are one of the triggers that cause the body to attack itself.
Circulating Immune Complexes (CIC) are formed as a result of partially digested protein molecules getting into the blood stream (via a leaky gut). These proteins typically come from the incomplete digestion of foods such as wheat, dairy and gluten as a result of an impaired digestive system. These partially digested proteins are absorbed into the blood stream via a weakened intestinal lining (leaky gut) and start to circulate the blood stream. Partially digested proteins are not supposed to be in the blood stream as they are too large to be metabolized, so the immune system reacts to them as if they are a foreign invader. Antibodies are produced and these combine with the proteins to form Circulating Immune Complexes (CIC).
In a healthy person these circulating immune complexes can be eliminated through the lymphatic system and kidneys, however in a person with an impaired digestion, leaky gut and multiple food intolerances too many CIC's are produced which overwhelms the body’s ability to eliminate them. According to Barron (2014) ` At this point the body has no choice but to store them in its own soft tissues, where the immune system continues to attack them as allergens'.
So when the CIC's are stored in body tissues the immune system will attack that tissue (essentially attacking itself) leading to inflammation and auto immunity. For example if the CIC's are stored in the thyroid it may lead to Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, if the CIC's are stored in the joints it may be Rheumatoid Arthritis and if stored in the skin it may be Psoriasis or Vitiligo. So when the CIC's are continuing to overwhelm the system and be stored in more and more different body tissues, it increases our risk of developing more than one auto immune disease. In fact I have seen clients in my clinic and in the community who have 3 or 4 different auto immune conditions. It is becoming an increasing problem.
` Testing shows that many people with auto immune disease have a much higher number of these immune complexes, either lodged in tissue, in the circulation or both' (enzymestuff.com, 2005)
So to treat auto immunity we need to get to the root cause of the development of these Circulating Immune Complexes (CIC's) by improving digestion, healing and sealing the intestinal lining and eliminating those allergenic foods for a period of time to dampen down the immune response to these foods. Proteolytic enzymes are an important part of this healing process as they gobble up and digest those immune complexes so over time less CIC's are stored in body tissues which results in a reduction of inflammation and auto immunity.
Proteolytic enzymes are different to digestive enzymes in that they are taking on an empty stomach. If they are taking with food they would only assist with the digestion of the protein in that meal. When taking on an empty stomach they have following benefits:
Reduces inflammation throughout the body Breaking down and removing circulating immune complexes (CIC’s) Dissolves fibrin and clots in the blood, improving blood flow Dissolves arterial plaque and scar tissue Cleans up the immune system and minimizes the impact of allergies Cleans the blood of foreign debris Kills and eliminates bacteria, virus, fungi and other pathogens Reduces the risk of food intolerance reactions
There are several different types of proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes that are derived from different sources. A good enzyme formula will have at least 200,000 HUT of Protease.
I am a big fan of the Enzyme Science range which is a practitioner only range that produces some great therapeutic enzyme products. My favourite is the Enzyme Defense Pro which contains:
350,000 HUT of Protease to help remove toxins, viruses, bacteria, fungi and circulating immune complexes. Cellulose -which helps to break down the cellulose cell wall of Candida. Serrapeptidase - which is anti-inflammatory Nattokinase - which breaks down fibrin and blood clots Muculose - which breaks down mucus so helpful for sinus allergies.
Proteolytic enzymes are a safe, natural way to support and balance the immune system and to help assist with the healing of many inflammatory, auto immune and circulatory conditions. It is best to work with a qualified health practitioner who can recommend which product and dosage is best for your condition.
Bohager, Tom Everything You Need to Know About Enzymes (2009), Greenleaf Book Group
Barron Jon Systemic Proteolytic Enzymes (27/7/14) – sourced from jonbarron.org – John Barron, The Baseline of Health Foundation.
DeFelice Karen Autoimmunity, Neurological Conditions and Enzymes (25/8/05) - sourced from www.enzymestuff.com