I’m a big fan of the humble digestive enzyme. How can you not love a product that makes your stomach feel better (with no side effects) when you make a food choice that turns out to be a problem? A good quality digestive enzyme will help you when you eat fats, proteins, processed foods, and gas-producers like legumes that have a lot of hard-to-digest insoluble fiber. That's my first reason to love them.

But enzymes help out with more than digestion! You might be surprised to learn what else they can do for you. Who would think that a digestive enzyme could work on a cold virus or provide pain relief? Read on to find out how...

Even though I hardly ever get sick, a few weeks ago, I got a bit of a cold – or possibly flu, so I started taking handfuls of enzymes. Like 10 or more per day. Does that sound crazy?

In case you’re wondering what digestive enzymes could possibly have to do with a cold, here’s my second reason to love them.

Colds and flu are started by viruses and virus cells have a protein coating. So if you take a lot of digestive enzymes, they break the protein coating on the virus cells in your body and the viruses die. (At least, that’s what happens to the ones in your digestive tract, which frees up your immune system to attack the rest of the little buggers.) Then you either get better faster, or you get less sick in the first place.

I learned this health tip from Udo Erasmus, PhD, who's an expert on digestive enzymes, probiotics, and healthy oils. Just remember, you have to take quite a few enzymes (I took about 5 two or three times a day) for the anti-virus effect. And it's probably best to take them between meals, not that you'll be eating much if you're sick.

The third thing I LOVE about digestive enzymes – and this is something I found out totally by accident – has to do with chronic pain relief...

A year ago, when I was out hiking, I fell and badly damaged my right shoulder and upper arm. It took a whole YEAR to get better. In fact, after eleven months I still had chronic pain – and I did everything I could think of, short of taking drugs, to get rid of it.

My doctor said it was tendonitis and told me to go for physiotherapy. The osteopath thought it was some kind of inflammation in the shoulder muscle. He made it worse. (No offense to osteopaths. I had great results from him with another injury.)

Anyway, I just kept trying different natural therapies and, over the eleven months, I went from barely being able to lift or turn my arm in front of me to being able to swing it up behind my back as high as my waist. But I still had almost constant pain and couldn’t use my arm and shoulder fully.

Finally, I got that cold I told you about. I took big doses of digestive enzymes over 5 days and at the end of the week, I’d basically beaten the cold into submission. And then I noticed a MIRACLE had also happened!

All the pain in my shoulder and upper arm was gone. Totally gone! After a whole year! Anybody who’s been in chronic pain knows that it’s like having a really irritating houseguest who just won’t leave. Then, when they finally go, it’s so relaxing to have your house all to yourself again, at last. Such a relief.

So what happened? Here’s what I think:

Digestive enzymes act as a natural anti-inflammatory. But only if you take them between meals. Otherwise they work on digesting your food. With the cold, I was hardly eating anything so, without knowing it, I was getting the full anti-inflammatory benefits. I would say these were fairly effective enzymes (understatement!)

Now I can put my arm behind my back and lift my hand up between my shoulder blades without any effort or pain. I was always able to do that before the injury, but not during the 11 months before the enzymes. Suddenly I got back full mobility in my shoulder. And no more chronic pain! (Yay!)

So these are the three reasons to LOVE digestive enzymes:

1) To help your digestion.
2) To fight colds and flu naturally. And last but not least...
3) To act as a natural anti-inflammatory for chronic pain relief.

 

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People in this conversation

  • Melanie Nelson

    I'm so impressed with your story of digestive enzymes healing your chronic shoulder/arm pain! That is incredible! So after you eliminated it with the initial mega dose when you were sick with the flu, was it gone for good? Or did you have to frequently take digestive enzymes between meals to maintain your pain free condition?

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  • Karen Alison of No IBS

    Nope, I didn't have to continue taking enzymes. The pain has gone for good. I occasionally hear some crunching in my shoulder area when I move my arm in a big circle, and I probably need to strengthen the muscles in that area since they were restricted for a whole year, but I have full mobility and no pain. What a difference! Yippee!

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  • Karen Alison of No IBS

    By the way, I've told some friends and relatives about my shoulder story, so they've tried the enzyme approach too. Without success.

    So I ask them, "How did you take the enzymes?"

    "Oh, I just followed the directions on the bottle. One tablet with meals."

    Uh...that's not going to do it. The whole point is to take them BETWEEN meals, and take a lot. I took 4 or 5 at a time, 3 or 4 times a day. And the brand I took had mixed enzymes including bile in it, which is pretty potent stuff, not just a yummy little papaya enzyme.

    Hey, I'm not a scientist, so this is purely anecdotal evidence and I don't know whether it will work for you or not. But it sure was a miracle for me, after a year of pain.

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  • Dave

    Good to see you got some relief. I also love digestive enzymes and promote them as a supplement when dealing gas and bloating.... actually a great book to read is Everything you need to know about enzymes, by Tom Bohager. Hope this helps.

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  • Thanks for your comment and the book recommendation, Dave. I'll definitely take a look at it.

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  • carol

    Do you have a recommendation of a type of enzyme to take
    I have had 3 years of chronic pain in my abdomen and started taking pro-biotics a week ago and someone suggested enzymes.
    I have pain when I eat "anything" - always hurts and I have had every test under the sun, so I am hoping this might help!

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  • Hi Carol,
    My fave-rave in enzymes is called VitaMost UltraGest. If you can't find it, here's the phone number on the bottle: 1-800-841-2288. BTW, this is not an official recommendation because I know not all products work for all people; it's just a product I use myself.

    I'm sorry to hear you're having so much trouble with food. Have you been checked for food sensitivities? Maybe look at our blog post called "New Technology May Help IBS Sufferers Eat Apples and FODMAPs Again!" - that info might be helpful for you.

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  • Ambika

    Incredible!
    After reading how you got miraculous results with digestive enzymes, I want to try them out too.
    Just wanted to confirm something with you- are these addictive? I mean, will my body get so used to them that they will become indispensable?
    Would be really thankful if you could answer that! :)

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  • Hi Ambika,
    Are enzymes addictive? No one has ever asked me that question before! I'm not a research scientist so I can't say for sure, but I kinda doubt it. In terms of the anti-inflammatory benefits, I know enzymes have been used in sports medicine to help heal injury for many years, particularly in Europe, but I haven't heard anything about people becoming dependent on them.
    From my perspective, it's a bit like taking, say, vitamin C. Lots of people take it for their whole lives, but they're not dependent on it (except maybe psychologically.) I suppose if you were taking really massive doses your body might decide they were indispensable.
    I tend to use enzymes as needed, as opposed to taking them all the time, so I go on and off them at will.
    Does that answer your question?
    You might want to check out the research on Wobenzym-N as they seem to have spent some time looking into the effects of systemic enzymes.

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