While there are many benefits to eating papaya fruit, there are also a few potential papaya enzyme side effects and warnings to be aware of. This is particularly the case with regards to the green unripen fruit, papaya seeds and papain enzyme digestive supplements.
Let’s have a look at some of the possible side effects of papaya enzymes and when it may be best to limit their use.
Pregnancy Precautions with Papaya
Green papaya latex, which is rich in the main papaya enzyme papain, has been traditionally used by various cultures in Asia to induce a miscarriage during pregnancy.
For this purpose it was often applied directly to the uterus, but food forms such as green papaya salad, the seeds of papaya in the parasite killing papaya seed smoothie ahead, as well as supplements containing papain enzyme are best avoided by pregnant women.
This warning does not extend to a fully ripe fresh fruit with no green on it. These papaya fruit contain much lower levels of papain and are generally considered very healthy for pregnant women with it’s rich antioxidant and vitamin content and many other health benefits.
Papain, Papaya Seeds and the Menstrual Cycle
Associated with the precautions of using papain when trying to become pregnant, papaya seeds, green papaya and other potent sources of papaya enzymes may interfer with a woman’s menstrual cycle if taken in large and regular doses.
One research paper on the subject suggested two possible mechanisms for how papain or associated enyzmes within papaya seeds and green papaya could have an effect on normal menstration – “The tropical fruit contains the enzyme papain which suppresses progesterone, a hormone needed to prepare the uterus for conception and maintain pregnancy. Another possibility is that papain may break down a membrane vital to the development of the fetus”.
Once again, fully ripe papaya would not contain enough enzymes to have any effect on the menstrual cycle.
Papaya Enzyme and Breast Feeding
Some sources advise against using papaya enzymes, unripe papaya or even the ripe fruit during breast feeding, though no specific reasons or supporting research is given why.
Interestingly, green papaya salads and soups are popular across Asia as a galactagogue, a substance that increases milk flow from the breast. To this end, eating the fruit while it is still green and full of papain enzyme is often recommended for breast feeding women.
Many Asian women also eat green papaya salad regularly, even when not breast feeding, believing the papaya enzymes in it can lead to an increase in breast size over time.
Papaya Seeds as a Contraceptive for Men
Along with their well known effects on the reproductive cycles of women, papaya seeds in particular can effect male fertility and have been traditionally used as a form of birth control for men.
There’s a detailed look at using papaya seeds as a male contracteptive including supporting research here.
Papaya and Stomach Ulcers
On the other, eating papaya with its many nutrients and enzymes is often said to help prevent gastric ulcers and heal minor stomach problems. It may do this by both increasing the protective mucus secretions in the stomach and, due to its ability to speed up the break down of protein, lessening the amount of time hydrochloric acid sits in the stomach.
While the occasional ripe fruit should not cause problems, talk to your doctor if you are being treated for a stomach ulcer and are thinking of using papaya enzymes with papain for digestion.
Papain and Blood Thinning Medications
The papain enzyme may increase the blood thinning effects of medications such as Warfarin and other anticoagulants, including daily aspirin taken for this purpose. As such it is not recommended for use at the same time as a course of these drugs. It is best not to take papain for several days before major surgery for the same reason.
People with blood clotting disorders, such as thrombosis and hemophilia, are also advised to avoid papain and green papaya. In cases like these, and any of the above, it is best to discuss using papaya enzymes with a knowledgeable healthcare professional.
Papaya and especially the green fruit high in enzymes should be avoided by anyone with a latex allergy. Papaya allergies are rare, but people who experience allergic reactions to papaw may also have an adverse reaction to pineapples, avocados, bananas, figs, kiwi fruit, melons and possibly other tropical fruit as well and should use any of these with caution and watch for symptoms.
Allergic reactions symptoms, while once again very uncommon, can include: swelling or itching of the face, lips, tongue and throat; rashes that appear shortly after consumption; dizziness; difficulty swallowing; and abdominal pain. There may be other side effects of a papaya or latex allergies so seek medical advice as soon as possible if you have any unusual reactions after eating any of the fruit listed above.
For the vast majority of people, papaya and the enzymes from the unripe fruit are extremely beneficial and a very healthy addition to your diet. Effective green papaya digestive enzymes are available if you can’t get the fresh fruit all the time, but I’d still recommend looking out of it and trying it when you can.
Do you have any experiences with using papaya enzyme that you’d like to share? I’d be interested to hear how it worked for you personally, both as a digestive aid and for other health purposes.
Next is a look at the unusual benefits of papaya seeds, an even stronger source of papain and other enzymes and alkaloids, and how to use them to improve your liver health, intestinal environment and even as a treatment for parasites.