How Papaya Enzyme Benefits Digestion

Papaw enzymeWhile eating fruit after a meal isn’t generally recommended as it can have a negative effect on your digestion, papaya is one of the few exceptions

Papaya fruit is a rich source of valuable proteolytic enzymes, such as papain, chymopapain, caricain and glycyl endopeptidase, that can greatly aid in the digestive process. This is especially true of meals that contain meat or other concentrated forms of protein.

But, as this page will show, papaya enzyme can have many other health benefits and may have an even more important role to play when taken on an empty stomach.

Protein Digestion and Papaya Enzymes

Many of us eat large amounts of low quality meat each week that can put great strain on our digestive system and enzyme producing pancreas. Processed meats, with additives such as the potentially carcinogenic sodium nitrite, are particularly worrying from a health perspective.

To make matters worse, rushed meals, extra large serving sizes, low digestive enzymes and stomach acid production, and poorly functioning digestive systems in general all contribute to this meat often ending up only partially digested by the time it reaches the lower intestine.

Here it can putrefy as it is acted upon by masses of flatulence causing bacteria. But smelly gas is the least of the potential health problems caused by undigested protein in the colon.

The place to fix flatulence and other more serious health issues associated with poor digestion, such as constipation, leaky gut syndrome and IBS, is not at the end of the process in the colon, but at the beginning.

There are certain foods that really need to be avoided for a while. Proper chewing is also important to break up food and can significantly assist carbohydrate digestion, but to get a head start on protein, proteolytic enzymes like the papain enzyme in papaya can really help.

What is Papain and What Does It Do?

The term proteolytic actually means protein digesting and, as an enzyme, papain is one of the most effective at breaking down meat and other proteins, comparable to the enzyme pepsin that we produce in our pancreas. In fact, papain is often preferred to pepsin in scientific cell isolation procedures as it is considered a more effective enzyme. It is also used commercially as a meat tenderizer.

Papain works by cleaving the peptide bonds of complex proteins, breaking them down to their individual amino acids, ready for use in the growth and repair of your body.

Introducing the papaya enzyme papain into a meal containing meat can significantly speed up its digestion. It may also help with the breakdown of other ‘troublesome’ proteins, such as the gluten in wheat and the casein in milk, that are often implicated in digestive problems.

Other Papaya Digestive Enzyme Benefits

Some people suggest that papain and other plant based enzymes would be destroyed in the hydrochloric acid of the stomach and see no value in them.

However, other nutritional experts believe that while papain may be rendered inactive with high levels of stomach acid, at least some would continue working again once it passes through to the alkaline environment of the small intestine.

Papaya enzymes protein Aside from these varying views, there is often a period, estimated at around half an hour to an hour, between when food is first eaten and when large amounts of hydrochloric acid is produced. During this time, salivary enzymes and any plant-based enzymes in the food (or taken with it) begin the process of digestion. In this window of time the addition of papain into a meal can greatly increase protein breakdown.

Additionally, since papaya as a soft fruit doesn’t require much digestion itself, some of its enzymes may move into the small intestine before large amounts of stomach acid is produced. Once in our intestines, papain and other papaya enzymes can help clear undigested protein-based debris and waste products.

Aside from helping to clear bloating and flatulence issues, proteolytic enzymes may also aid more serious digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and help prevent fungal candida overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract.

Why Green Papaya is Better for Digestion

Green fruit contain significantly more papaya enzyme than those that are fully ripened. That said, perhaps with the exception of green papaya salad, it’s not as appetizing for most people. Bright orange papaya is also likely to contain more antioxidants and vitamins and have many other health benefits.

As a compromise, I personally use papayas that are just ripening but still have a little green on them. I’ll also use sections of fully green papaya in digestive and anti-parasite smoothies.

A convenient and potent alternative rich in papain enzyme are green papaya supplements. If fresh papaya is unavailable or too expensive, green papaya capsules can be taken with a meal high in protein and are an easy way to improve its digestion and avoid intestinal problems later on.

Papaya Enzyme on an Empty Stomach

While papaya enzymes are most often taken with food, another strategy that is gaining popularity is to take green papaya in the powder or capsules, or blended up in a smoothie, on an empty stomach.

Under these circumstances little hydrochloric acid would be produced and the papain and other enzymes could pass into the small intestine in larger amounts. From here they are believed to be absorbed into the bloodstream where they can exert an anti-inflammatory effect throughout the body.

Proteolytic enzymes in the bloodstream are known to reduce inflammation in your body, possibly by scavenging damaged and oxidized proteins. These damaged proteins are implicated in a variety of debilitating autoimmune disorders such as severe allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome and a weakened immune system that is much more vulnerable to infections and disease.

Papain and other proteolytic enzymes are also understood to break down fibrin protein, which is involved in both the formation of dangerous blood clots and provides a protective coating for cancer cells. It is this action of potentially dissolving cancerous cells protective coating that has many experts interested in papain for use in cancer prevention and possibly even as part of a treatment for cancer.

The protein digesting enzymes from papaya fruit are generally recognized as safe and well tolerated when used internally. Despite its many benefits, there are some papaya enzyme precautions and some potential papain side effects to be aware of which will be covered next.

Have you used papaya enzyme before to improve your digestion or reduce inflammation in your body? I’d appreciate hearing how they worked for you personally. If you’d like to try an even stronger source of papain and other papaya enzymes and alkaloids then see the page on the beneficial effects of papaya seeds.

Photo 1 credit: Normski’s / Photo 2 credit: jenn.b / Photo 3 credit: Barbara Dieu

17 Responses to “How Papaya Enzyme Benefits Digestion”

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  1. Laura (So Ca) says:

    I have been in a digestion and pain, burning, nausea cycle and struggle for about a month. Although I figured out I am low on Pancreatic enzymes (fat digestion has been hell), that didn’t solve this complex puzzle. Pancreatic Enzymes did kept the pain at bay during the night, but I was still having trouble digesting foods, and my stomach and intestines were inflamed and talking to me still, although I was feeling it was at least manageable.

    Dried Papaya (no added sugar or sulfur) has truly helped me with the burning and nausea, but I have also eating Ginger Chews. After 30+ plus days of left side pain, and all the other symptoms, I’m feeling normal.

    Mango is also one of my fruits, and I don’t normally eat fruit. Apples have a high pesticide level, so I gave them up. Papaya, Mango and Ginger are on the EWG List of Clean (Safe) Fruits.
    EWG=- Environmental Working Grp

    Papaya is not only one of my favs, it’s delicious. No pain, no inflammation, no nausea today!
    I will be eating Papaya, Mango, and Ginger Chews for another week as maintenance. The enzymes seem to have balanced my micro-flora. I also take probiotics. It was a tweek here and there, that “cured” me.

    • Jim Dillan says:

      Hi Laura and thanks for your comments.

      Papaya, mango and other tropical fruits like pineapple are often good for this purpose, as is ginger. I’m glad they are working so well for you.

      All the best.

  2. Sa'ra says:

    I appreciate your articles concerning papaya seeds and will immed begin trying them and keeping a journal. I am challenged w celiac disease and am always searching for ways to improve my health! I will b in touch soon! ( just back from Wakiki where i discovered a dressing containing papaya seeds, honey, etc that delights my taste buds! Am searching for good place to purchase seeds!) aloha! Sa’ra

    • Jim Dillan says:

      Hi Sa’ra and thanks for your comments. I only recommend papaya seeds directly from the fresh papaya fruit as seeds sold for planting may have been treated with something.

      All the best.

  3. jeanie says:

    im just wondeering how this would help me. I have gastropaaresis which is delayed stomach emptying. Would like your thoughts on this please. thanks

    • Jim Dillan says:

      Hi Jeanie,

      The enzymes in papaya or papain supplements could help if the problem is related to protein digestion. You’d need to check with your practitioner though, especially before using papain as it’s quite powerful.

      Hope this helps

  4. Geraldine says:

    Jim, do you have any additional advice beyond papaya for small bowel bacteria overgrowth. It seems to be a widespread problem without a cure.

    • Jim Dillan says:

      Hi Geraldine,

      Papaya and indeed papaya seeds may be part of a treatment for small bowel bacteria overgrowth but you’d need to address the underlying causes, such as too many carbohydrates in the diet or milk sensitivity. I’d suggest researching this on where many natural treatments are discussed.

      Hope this helps,


  5. michael says:

    I consider myself a very health person (haven’t gotten a cold or flu in 4 years) but beginning about 2 years ago i began to experience bloating after even very small meals. Beer (even just 12 oz), pasta, ice cream became impossible to eat without suffering for several hours from a severe bloated feeling. Sometimes I would eat nothing all day and still feel full at dinnertime! My daughter suggested enzymes so I bought a $6.00 bottle of chewable Papaya Enzyme at the drugstore and began eating two after each meal. It’s only been one week but I already feel back to normal. No bloating or discomfort, almost no gas (that was becoming a problem too), even had pizza last night for the first time in weeks and felt great afterward. These things are amazing and there is no question my “cure” is attributable to the Papaya Enzyme because this problem was serious and continuous and now appears to be gone. I’m hoping there is no harm in taking them long term because I plan to
    continue taking these daily.

  6. cm says:

    Papaya enzyme has made it possible for me to eat outside food. Before I started taking Papaya Enzyme every time I ate food other than my own I would have to use the bathroom within 15-20 minutes of finishing eating. It didn’t matter if I ate junk or a salad. My friends always made fun of me, I am only in my 20’s with stomach issues. My one friend told me that her grandma had the same problem and took papaya enzyme to help her. I take Papaya within the first few bites of food and Now I am fine. If I forget to take the Papaya I am sick within minutes.

    Finally I can eat lunch with everyone else at work with no worries. Papaya has made eating out enjoyable again. No rushing home anymore.

    • Jim Dillan says:

      Hi there and thanks for your comments.

      It sounds like papaya enzymes have been particularly beneficial for you. I’m glad they’re working so well.

  7. Angelika says:

    Another good thing about Papaya is that it is an excellent food option for diabetics as it has a low-sugar content even though it is sweet to taste.

  8. Rosalin says:

    I discovered first Papua fruit and then papaya enzymes after problems and pain with digestion and acid reflux. I was diagnosed with a 4cm parasophogeal hiatal hernia which caused me no end of grief. The papaya enzymes have been a god send and allow me to enjoy certain foods again.

  9. bella123 says:

    Hi Jim,
    I really want to do this detox but I don’t think the papaya seeds agree with me. I did as you said, taking it slowly. I took only one the first day, chewed on that. (wasn’t too bad). Second day took two but not at the same time maybe 1/2 hour apart. Well that second seed did me in. The first symptom was dizziness and I had no idea it came upon me with no warning. I felt like I was drunk almost fell to the ground. It just got worst after that….. I felt an unbelievable high heart rate, big time nervousness but at the same time weakness at the legs, my throat was closing in on me and my jaw locked. It felt to me like something was joking me from the inside. I kept calm because I was home alone when I did this and I didn’t want to panic. This was around the time I was going to have dinner. So I tried to shove bread down my throat and drinking a lot of water to soak everything I just ingested. I did not want to make myself throw up to release whatever was there so I just kept drinking water. I felt bit better but I thought I was going to die. I was so scared. I read a lot about papaya seeds and it says that its safe and good for you, and man did I have a bad reaction. It lingered for a few days. Do you know anything about these symptoms and why I reacted this way when everyone else on here were fine. Oh another thing, do you think I could do the pumpkin seed one without so much attack on the system? Will wait on your reply. Thank you so much.

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