Wobenzym N is an extremely popular dietary supplement and alternative remedy, used as a home remedy for dozens of common ailments. This enzyme formula is a combination of two plant-based, protein-digesting enzymes, papain and bromelain. Protease enzymes have long been implicated for their use in treating inflammatory diseases like sinusitis, rhematoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, fever, swelling and sports injury. Topical Wobenzym products, which were banned by the U.S. Food and Drug administration in 2008, had been successfully used as treatments and debriding agents for skin injuries, rashes, burns and superficial skin cancers. Despite the many potential benefits associated with Wobenzym N, protease enzyme supplements are associated with some degree of risk.
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Papain and bromelain, the two principle ingredients of Wobenzym N, generally cause few side effects in healthy individuals. However, Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, indicates that protease enzymes can cause brief periods of stomach cramping and diarrhea. This mild side effect occurs because protease enzymes affect the chemical balance of the digestive tract and may speed the digestion of high-protein foods. Wobenzym N may also rarely cause nausea, vomiting or reflux in certain individuals.
The most serious problem associated with Wobenzym N is the potential risk of a serious allergic reaction. The two protease enzymes found in Wobenzym N, papain and bromelain, are derived from papaya and pineapple respectively. Trace amounts of these fruits may appear in Wobenzym N products and may cause allergic reactions in people with known allergies to either fruit. A person is more likely to be allergic to Wobenyzm N if she has a known allergy to latex, birch, cypress, carrot, celery, caraway or wheat.
In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the over-the-counter sale of topical preparations containing the papaya-derived enzyme papain. Some products manufactured by Wobenzym N, including creams and ointments, were affected by this legislation. The FDA's official policy states that the recall occurred because some people suffered from allergic reactions to the enzyme. This decision was met with some controversy within the alternative health community, since the risk of allergic reaction is slim for people using topical preparations.
Wobenzym N contains bromelain, a key enzyme derived from pineapple, which can prevent platelets from clumping together. This may increase a person's risk of bleeding. Women have reported heavier menstrual flow while using Wobenzym N, and it may cause uterine bleeding in pregnant women. People with bleeding disorders like hemophilia and von Willebrand disease should avoid bromelain except under the guidance of a qualified health practitioner.
Wobenzym N may interact positively with some drugs; for example, it works in synergy with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to decrease pain and inflammation. However, it may also cause serious complications if it is used incorrectly with certain drugs. Because of Wobenzym N's potential anticoagulant effects, people taking blood-thinners like warfarin should avoid bromelain because of the potentially serious risk of hemorrhage. Additionally, Wobenzym N can cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure among people taking drugs designed to decrease symptoms of hypertension.
Juniper Russo, an eclectic autodidact, has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has appeared in several online and print-based publications, including Animal Wellness. Russo regularly publishes health-related content and advocates an evidence-based, naturopathic approach to health care.