Limited treatment options have led to an increasing use of systemic enzyme therapy as a means to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Certain proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes have been identified to have extremely beneficial actions when applied to the inflammation and pain related to this condition. Systemic enzymes, typically taken orally and on an empty stomach, enter directly into the blood stream. Enzymes then circulate throughout the body, acting upon complexes in the blood as well as in tissues and organs.
Several clinical studies have evaluated the use of systemic enzymes in treating pain throughout the body. Rheumatic conditions, including periarthritis of the shoulder, painful osteoarthritis of the knee and vertebral syndromes, were evaluated based on pain scores before and after treatment with proteolytic enzymes and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study showed a statistical equivalence between oral enzyme therapy and conventional drug therapy in the ability to significantly reduce pain in various rheumatic diseases.1
The efficacy of two proteolytic enzymes in treating venous inflammatory disease was evaluated in a study. Good or excellent scores measured the efficacy of Serrapeptase and Seaprose S (a protease). Serrapeptase was effective in 65 percent of the cases compared to 85 percent for Seaprose S. Serrapeptase specifically demonstrated a 63 percent reduction in spontaneous pain and 57 percent reduction in pain on pressure. Though Seaprose S had better overall results, the study confirmed both enzymes were effective in patients with inflammatory venous disease.2 (Note: Seaprose S has since been withdrawn from the market).
A study measured the effect of serrapeptase on post-operative swelling and pain of the ankle. In the serrapeptase group, the swelling decreased by 50 percent on the third post-operative day, while in the control groups (no treatment and treatment with ice) no reduction in swelling occurred. A decrease in pain correlated for the most part with the reduction in swelling. On the basis of these results, serrapeptase would appear to be an effective preparation for the post-operative reduction of swelling, in comparison with classical conservative measures, such as the application of ice.3
A clinical evaluation of serrapeptase was conducted to determine its efficacy in reducing inflammation in patients with breast engorgement. Serrapeptase was noted to be superior to placebo for improvement of breast pain, breast swelling and induration, with 85.7 percent of patients receiving serrapeptase having “Moderate to Marked” improvement. No adverse reactions were reported with the use of serrapeptase. Researchers conclude serrapeptase is a safe and effective method for treatment of breast engorgement.4
A multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 193 subjects suffering from acute or chronic ear, nose or throat disorders evaluated the efficacy of serrapeptase. Significant symptom regression was observed in serrapeptase-treated patients after three to four days of treatment. Statistical comparison confirmed the greater efficacy of serrapeptase against all of the symptoms examined. It was concluded that serrapeptase has anti-inflammatory, anti-edemic and fibrinolytic activity, and acts rapidly on localized inflammation.5
Bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme extracted from pineapple, has also been found to be effective in reducing inflammation by blocking chemical signals called cytokines, which promote and increase inflammation.6,7 Research shows bromelain disrupts the migration of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) to an inflamed area, where they would otherwise propagate the process. One study measured a 50-85 percent decrease in the migration of neutrophils after bromelain treatment.8