7 Papaya Enzymes Side Effects and Warnings: Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and More
While there are many positives to eating papaya fruit, there are also some potential side effects and warnings to be aware of. This is particularly the case with the green unripe fruit, the seeds, leaves and papain enzyme digestive supplements.
Let’s have a look at 7 of the most common side effects of papain papaya enzymes and in what situations and conditions it would be best to avoid using them.
1. Pregnancy Precautions with Papaya
Green papaya latex, which is rich in the fruit’s main 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.
Authorities recommend pregnant women avoid papain consumption to protect their unborn baby. This includes avoiding green papaya salad, the seeds in this parasite killing smoothie, and particularly supplements containing the enzyme.
This warning does not extend to a fully ripe fresh fruits that are all yellow or orange with no green on them. These contain far lower levels of papain and eating papaya fruit has many benefits.
2. Papain and the Menstrual Cycle
Associated with the precautions of using papain when trying to become pregnant, green papayas and other potent sources of the enzymes may interfere 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 the enzymes within the seeds and green papaya could have an effect on normal menstruation.
According to the scientists, unripe papaya: “…contains the enzyme papain which suppresses hormones 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 the fruit would not contain enough enzymes to have an effect on the menstrual cycle or a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
3. Papaya Enzymes and Breastfeeding
Some sources advise against using papaya enzymes or the unripe green 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.
Many Asian women also eat green papaya salad regularly, even when not breastfeeding, believing the enzymes in it can lead to an increase in breast size over time.
4. May Reduce Fertility for Men
Along with their well known effects on the reproductive cycles of women, papaya seeds in particular can affect male fertility and have been traditionally used as a form of birth control for men in some Asian cultures.
There’s a detailed look at using papaya seeds as a male contraceptive here, including supporting research. As a precaution, a man trying to get his partner pregnant should avoid both the green fruit and the seeds.
5. Papaya and Stomach Ulcers
There are mixed reports from scientific resources regarding papaya enzymes and ulcers. On the one hand, people suffering from severe stomach ulcers are advised to avoid the fruit, particularly when it’s green, as well as any digestive enzymes with papain.
On the other, eating papaya fruit with its high levels of nutrients and enzymes, is often recommended 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 breakdown 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 GP if you are being treated for a stomach ulcer and are thinking of using papain enzymes for digestion.
As a natural alternative, this superfood smoothie contains some excellent ingredients for healing ulcers and improving your overall digestive health.
6. Papain and Prescriptions
The papain enzyme may increase the effects of certain prescriptions that thin out the blood. It’s important not to take green papaya supplements or the seeds for several days before surgical procedures for the same reason.
In cases like these, and any of the above, it’s always best to discuss using papaya enzymes with your healthcare professional.
7. Allergic Reactions
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, bananas and other tropical fruit.
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 professional advice as soon as possible if you have any unusual reactions after eating this fruit.
For the vast majority of people though, both ripe papaya and the enzymes-rich unripe fruits are a very beneficial addition to the diet.
Green papaya capsules are available if you can’t get the fresh fruit, but I’d still recommend looking out of it and trying it when you can.
Papaya Enzyme Experiences
Do you have any experiences with using papaya enzymes 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 wellness 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.