Sunday, September 24, 2023

Papaya Benefits In Digestion: More On Paper, Less In Practice?

Papaya has many nutrients that help in digestion but you are not going to get them by eating papaya.

You have read this before: Papaya is terrific for digestion. If you chance upon a scientific-sounding website, you may have also learned that papaya has plant compounds called papain and chymopapain, which have powerful protein-digesting properties.

No wonder we see people eating papaya in the hope of improving their digestion.

But wait. Let us explore whether papaya can help your digestive system.

Nutrients in Papaya That Help Digestion

Experts advise eating 150 grams of papaya a day. Since you should not eat any fruit daily, papaya is best rotated with other healthy fruits. These points together mean that you can eat 150 grams of papaya 3–4 times a week.

Papaya is rich in many nutrients that are known to help digestion.

Dietary Fibre

Papaya has a good amount of dietary fibre. Eating 150 grams gives you 2.3 grams of fibre, which provides 5.8% of the daily fibre requirement out of 40 grams recommended by the Indian Council for Medical Research, making it a good source of dietary fibre.


This enzyme in papaya can break long protein molecules into smaller ones called peptides or amino acids. Even your body enzymes cut proteins to digest them in a similar manner. So consuming papain along with any protein-containing food helps it digest faster and better. Why is that important?

Some people have problems digesting proteins properly. A common example is Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI), which is different from lactose intolerance. When your body cannot digest proteins properly, you develop food allergies as your immune system treats those proteins as ‘enemies’ and attacks them.

Papain is also used for tenderising meat, clarifying beer, analysing proteins in laboratories, and in cleaning solutions for soft contact lenses—due to its protein-breaking ability.


This compound is similar in structure to papain, with slightly different properties and also helps in protein digestion.

You may be surprised to know that Chymopapain was used worldwide for slipped or herniated disks. It would be injected directly into the spinal disk to dissolve its proteins and relieve the pain and pressure on the spinal cord. The injection had excellent results, but it was discontinued in 2003 for a very strange reason: Abbott decided to stop producing and selling it and that was not because of its safety or effectiveness.

And finally the trivial nutrient, water.


Eighty-eight per cent of papaya is water, which helps in constipation.

Challenges In Using Papaya As A Digestion Aid

At first look, papaya seems excellent for improving digestion. However, there is a challenge:

Papain and chymopapain are found only in raw papayas. As papaya ripens, both enzymes are converted into different compounds that have no protein-digesting properties. You can’t eat ripe papaya to help in digesting proteins. So why not eat raw papaya, besides the bland taste?

Raw papaya is full of milky latex, which is toxic. So papaya is never eaten raw; only ripe one is safe to eat. Then how can we use papaya to tenderise meat?

Many cuisines have meat dishes in which raw papaya slices are added and cooked. The papaya pieces help tenderise the meat. The heat during cooking inactivates papain and chymopapain, making the cooked raw papaya pieces safe to eat.

Commercially, papain and chymopapain are extracted from raw papaya or other parts of the plant and made available in digestive powders or capsules. So papaya products can be great for digestion but ripe papaya is not. Be careful about the claims to the contrary on sundry websites.

The enzymes papain and chymopapain have anti-inflammatory properties. As they help digest protein, they also reduce inflammation. Papaya extract reduces constipation and bloating in Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS), which is an inflammatory condition of the digestive tract.

The fibre and water in papaya help with constipation but that is true for many fruits and vegetables.


  • Papaya has many digestive ingredients. But you cannot get all of them by eating ripe papaya.
  • You have to take Over-The-Counter (OTC) digestive preparations for getting the powerful digestive enzymes in papaya.
  • For entertainment, google “Does papaya help in digestion” and go through renowned websites that pop up. Read the unscientific explanations about eating papaya, papain, and digestive health. That is pulp (pun unintended!) nutrition advice for you.

Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).

To Read More

First Published on: 14th June 2023
Image Credit: alleksana on Pexels


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