A Closer Look at Proteolytic Enzymes and Your Immune System

By Danielle Huntsman, MS CNS LDN

Maintaining a robust immune system is the gold standard for overall health and vitality. How can we adequately support ourselves despite our ever-changing environment and daily life stressors? While the answer can be different for everyone, looking at the fundamental level of biology and the role enzymes play in every living organism can serve as a starting point. 

Simply put, enzymes are essential for life; they act as catalysts that help facilitate and accelerate thousands of chemical reactions within the body. While Enzymes are naturally produced in the body, aging, environmental or life stressors and poor digestion all factor into enzyme production. Enzymes can be extracted from plant, animal, and microbial sources. The function of enzymes relies heavily on the help of cofactors and coenzymes. Minerals such as zinc, iron and copper serve as cofactors while many B vitamins serve as coenzymes to enzymes.[1] Enzyme-rich fruits and vegetables include: papaya, pineapple, beet, onion, leek and celery. The enzyme amylase, lipase and protease are produced by the pancreas and are responsible for the breakdown of sugar and carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.

Besides playing an important role in digestion, enzymes also support the immune system. Proteolytic enzymes are responsible for proteolysis and support overall health when taken on an empty stomach.* The foreign species (antigens) recognized by the body are usually protein-aceous or polypeptide in nature and, in some cases, are small molecules attached to carrier proteins eliciting an immune response. Oral systemic enzymes are absorbed as free proteases active in fluids and tissues or bind to alpha-2-macroglobulin for protection from degradation, allowing the enzyme to circulate in the blood.*[2,3] While in the blood, proteases target foreign proteins and dead or damaged proteins generated from immune responses thereby helping to clean the blood of cellular debris.*

In optimal health, the body is shielded with a robust immune system that is highly functioning and balanced to ward off foreign species. Supplementing with proteolytic enzymes can be a supportive measure to minimizing stressors in conjunction with supplying the body with tools to strengthen this defense mechanism, maintaining a balanced immune system throughout the year.



1 Yokoyama, Maho. (2018). What is an Enzyme Cofactor?. News-Medical. Retrieved on August 19, 2021 from https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-an-Enzyme-Cofactor.aspx.

2 Lorkowski G. (2012). Int J Physiol Pathophysiol Pharmacol. 4(1), 10-27.

3 Nakamura S, et al. (2003). Respirology. 8(3), 316-20.