Inflammation afflicts so many people today it might be hard to believe that your body naturally produces the best anti-inflammatory in the world. They’re called enzymes – specifically metabolic enzymes. Of course, this prompts the question:
If my body produces these anti-inflammatory molecules, why do I suffer from it?
Frankly, researchers are still studying the many complexities of our inflammatory response. These causes, however, don’t change the fact that enzymes provide the best and most complete relief. To understand why is to understand the basics of inflammation. Let’s take a closer look…
Why Inflammation Occurs
As big a pain as inflammation is (literally, right?), it’s also the mechanism by which the body protects itself from harm and infection. A 2013 Nutrition Review article explains that inflammation is important as it is your body’s natural response to injury or infection. The article notes five symptoms of inflammation[i]:
- Redness – indicating increased blood flow to the area
- Heat – due to the presence of more blood
- Swelling – resulting from the build-up of fluids in the surrounding tissue
- Pain – which happens as swelling increases pressure in the area
- Limited mobility – again due to the swelling, especially in joints
Each of these is an essential part of recovery from injury and infection. For example, if you cut yourself while preparing dinner, you’ll bleed. Apply pressure and wrap it and soon the bleeding stops (assuming of course that the cut’s not too bad).
What happened was that as soon as the body recognized the injury, fibrin, a protein used for clotting was released to the area. This fibrin helps to form a barrier to stop the blood loss. Once the bleeding stops, you might notice the area is red, hot, swollen and tender.
This happens as the area is flooded with lymphatic fluid and white blood cells to stop infection. Other molecules needed to remove the dead and broken cells arrive. Their removal allows new cells to take the place of the damaged ones.
This is the same process that takes place for insect bites and stings, infection from germs, sunburns and yes, it’s the same process that’s at the source of joint pain. While necessary for healing, this process can also become problematic as we’ll see in a moment.
How Metabolic Enzymes Reduce Inflammation
Enzymes can generally be divided into three categories.
- Digestive enzymes, essential for digestion
- Food or dietary enzymes, like those that naturally occur in plants; bromelain from pineapple and papain from papaya are two well-known examples
- Metabolic enzymes, which are used to fuel every metabolic process in the body
These metabolic enzymes are responsible for every chemical reaction you need to live. They control your metabolism, keep your immune system going and cleanse the body of toxins and waste. Part of this body cleansing function includes keeping the inflammation response moving along.
Some ways enzymes work is to clear the blood of fibrin. They’re needed to break down and remove neutralized germs in the form of antigen-antibody immune complexes which form when your white blood cells bind with germs to stop infection. These two simple processes alone have a huge effect on inflammation and how you feel, including:
By clearing away fibrin, enzymes help reduce and prevent blockages in blood vessels. This is especially important in the arteries and in the joints. In arteries and veins, fibrin can restrict blood flow and put strain on the heart. A recent study has observed that metabolic enzymes protect blood vessels and the heart from damage by improved blood flow and even contribute to healing.[ii]
Circulation affects joints too. Joints have fewer blood vessels and less blood flow. A build-up of fibrin in the blood vessels reduces blood to the joint. What you experience, however, is swelling, limited mobility, aches and soreness as your body heals more slowly since the delivery of essential nutrients and molecules needed for recovery has been reduced.
Metabolic enzymes help keep the blood clear of fibrin to keep blood flowing.
Better Lymphatic Circulation
The lymphatic system is responsible for the delivery of white blood cells. These white blood cells use metabolic enzymes to break down the germs that cause infection.[iii] When there aren’t enough enzymes, those large antigen-antibody complexes form, and like fibrin, can clog and block lymphatic flow.
This slows the removal of fluid that contributes to swelling. It also slows the ability of new white blood cells to arrive to quickly deal with the infection.
Researchers have found that metabolic enzymes work as well to relieve pain as over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, just without the side effects.
Faster Recovery from Injury and Illness
How long it takes you to recover from injury and illness has a lot to do with blood flow and your body’s ability to complete the many metabolic processes needed to –
- Isolate the area, i.e. stop blood loss or further damage to nearby cells
- Remove damaged tissue or infectious germs
- Deliver the nutrient building blocks needed to rebuild the cells in the area
This is how inflammation works whether you’re recovering from an awesome workout, physical injury, or infection.
Researchers have known metabolic enzymes play an essential role in physical recovery. In one study, they decided to see if supplementing with metabolic enzymes would improve recovery time. They tested the metabolic enzymes against a placebo, which just let the body recover without any additional help. The athletes who took the enzymes enjoyed a faster recovery.
So, If I Make These Metabolic Enzymes, Why Do I Suffer from Inflammation?
While researchers continue to explore inflammation, there are several known factors why inflammation can get out of control.
- You produce fewer enzymes as you get older. Some experts suggest by age 50 you produce half the enzymes you did at age 20.
- One organ produces the majority of your enzymes. The pancreas is responsible for making enzymes. It can only produce so many (which is frankly a lot), but other factors can make those it can produce too few. For example, without enough enzyme rich foods in your diet – raw fruits and vegetables – it has to spend time making more digestive enzymes, instead of metabolic enzymes.
- A diet high in sugar, starches and processed foods. A carb heavy diet and one that includes nutrient and enzyme-deficient processed foods can quickly overwhelm your ability to break down all the sugars and starches you eat.
- Eating too much food. Even a healthy diet can tax your system if you overeat.
- Sports and exercise. Your body needs time to recover. If it doesn’t get enough rest and recovery time, it can wear down, especially the joints.
- Injury. A physical injury can leave a joint damaged or weakened. Even when it heals, it may not be 100%.
- Digestive injuries. Constant inflammation in the digestive tract like that which causes irritable bowels, indigestion, acid and more, floods your body with inflammatory-molecules. Inflammation like this may overwhelm your body’s ability to produce enough metabolic enzymes to control it.
These are several common reasons the enzymes you produce may not be enough. Fortunately, you can help.
How to Reduce Inflammation in Your Body with Metabolic Enzymes
Regardless of your condition, you can take steps today to address inflammation. This is not to say your condition may be more complex and require greater attention, but rather, you can take steps to get it under control immediately. Here’s what to do:
First, eliminate processed foods and those with added sugars.
Second, eat more raw fruits and vegetables.
Now, sometimes this can pose a challenge for you, which is totally understandable, you might want to consider taking a plant-based digestive enzyme with meals. By doing this, you’ll support your body’s own digestive enzymes and improve digestion even of sugars and carbs.
Third, if you exercise, set a routine that gives your muscles and joints a chance to recover. Taking a day off between workouts is highly recommended by most physical trainers.
Finally, take metabolic enzymes. By taking them, you supply your body with the enzymes it needs to support circulation, keep your immune system going strong and reduce the achy, soreness of inflammation.
[ii] Gonzalez EA1, et al. Cathepsin B inhibition attenuates cardiovascular pathology in mucopolysaccharidosis I mice. Life Sci. 2018 Mar 1;196:102-109. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2018.01.020. Epub 2018 Jan 31.
[iv] Bolten WW1, et al. The safety and efficacy of an enzyme combination in managing knee osteoarthritis pain in adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis. 2015;2015:251521. doi: 10.1155/2015/251521. Epub 2015 Jan 31.
[v] Marzin T1, et al. Effects of a systemic enzyme therapy in healthy active adults after exhaustive eccentric exercise: a randomised, two-stage, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2017 Mar 12;2(1):e000191. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2016-000191. eCollection 2016.