Enzymes accelerate reactions within body cells. In the human body, the pancreas usually produces enzymes that break down foods into nutrients that the body can use for energy and other functions. Papain, an enzyme produced by the tropical fruit, papaya, is proteolytic, which means that it digests proteins. Frequently, papain is included in prescription combinations of digestive enzymes to replace what individuals with cystic fibrosis or pancreas conditions cannot produce naturally. Because it improves digestion in general, papain has also been used orally to treat less serious digestion disorders such as bloating and chronic indigestion. Since parasitic organisms are largely proteins, papain has sometimes been taken internally to eliminate intestinal worms, but this use is rare today. Proteolytic enzymes such as papain may also decrease pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, improve healing of injuries, and reduce swelling after surgery.
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