Proper digestion of the food you consume is a key component in your body's absorption of necessary nutrients. Digestion begins with your very first bite, through the secretion of saliva, and continues all the way through your digestive system as food reaches the small and large intestines. Although enzymes occur naturally in your digestive tract, extra support is sometimes needed, and can be found through digestive aids such as papaya enzymes. Consult your doctor before taking digestive enzymes, including those made from papaya.
Papaya and Papain
The papaya is a pear-shaped fruit with skin that turns from green to a bright orange-yellow as it ripens. It is grown in tropical areas around the world. This fruit is one of the richest natural sources of papain, an enzyme that helps to break down and digest the proteins in food. Papain is obtained by cutting through the skin of an unripe green papaya and collecting the milky white latex that is excreted. The latex is then dried and sold in powdered form.
Papain is best known as a meat tenderizer in many commercial products and has been used to treat wool and silk before dyeing. It is also found in many products you use daily, including toothpastes, cosmetics and detergents. Medical uses for papain include treating ulcers and reducing swelling, fever and adhesion after surgery. Chemopapain, a less potent enzyme also present in the papaya fruit, is sometimes injected for the treatment of slipped spinal discs or pinched nerves.
Digestive enzymes should be taken at the beginning of each meal. Enzymes generally will not work well if taken at the end of the meal. You should always consult your doctor before taking any dietary supplements, including digestive enzymes.
According to the University of Southern California Medical Center, digestive enzymes are believed to be quite safe, though they may cause digestive upset or allergic reactions. Less common side effects may include nausea, abdominal cramping or diarrhea. Discontinue use if any signs of hypersensitivity or allergic reactions appear.
Kaytee Rae Weaver has a Bachelor of Science in business management with additional studies in health and wellness from San Francisco State University. She brings years of healthy living experience through exercise and nutrition to her writing and continues to grow her knowledge through research and life experiences.