Enzyme therapy refers to both medical treatments and to dietary supplements used as a natural medicine, and it has application with a range of medical conditions. Enzyme supplements are promoted by practitioners of natural medicine as a means to treat a host of conditions that include not only digestive and circulation problems but also cancer. In mainstream medicine, it is used for treatment of conditions like pancreatic enzyme deficiency, genetic lysosomal disorders, and as chemotherapy for certain cancers. Enzyme supplements are controversial in the medical community, particularly as regards their use as a treatment for cancer.
Enzymes are natural proteins that act as accelerators to speed up the body’s biological processes. Digestive and metabolic enzymes are two of the most important enzymes. Digestive enzymes are manufactured in the pancreas and work to break down food into essential nutrients for use by the body. Metabolic enzymes repair damaged cells in the organs and tissues of the body.
Enzyme supplements, which are taken in powder or pill form, are derived from animal organs and plants like papaya and pineapple. Bromelain enzyme is extracted from pineapple and used as an anti-inflammatory aid. The trypsin enzyme is sometimes used in conjunction with bromelain for osteoarthritis. Chymotrypsin is recommended for the swelling which occurs following surgery or trauma and is also promoted for treating ulcers. In the US, these enzymes supplements are not regulated, and there are no established safe dosages for their usage.
For people in whom a particular enzyme is not being made in the body or is manufactured in insufficient amounts, a medical enzyme therapy known as enzyme replacement is used to correct the condition. It is a recognized treatment for conditions such as Anderson-Fabry disease and Gaucher disease. These are lysosomal disorders in which the body does not metabolize fatty acids, which then build up in the tissues, organs, and bones of the body. These disorders are inherited, and the body cannot create the necessary enzyme to breakdown the acids. Replacement therapy provides the missing enzymes through intravenous infusions, commonly called IV treatments.
In mainstream medicine, enzyme therapy is also used for specific cancer treatments. The enzyme asparaginase, for instance, which occurs naturally in the body, is used as a chemotherapy drug for types of leukemia. Pancreatic enzymes, also created naturally in the body, are used to treat various pancreatic diseases and medical disorders resulting from the surgical removal of the pancreas.
The disputes in the medical field regarding natural enzyme therapy have to do in part with the form of the treatment. Many medical professionals and researchers question whether oral enzyme supplements can have any effect on the treatment of diseases, particularly cancer. Researchers have noted that it is highly doubtful that enzymes taken by mouth can even reach a tumor via the bloodstream. This is because enzymes are broken down into amino acids and then absorbed into the intestines before reaching any other organs in the body.