Treatment options with serious side effects have led to an increasing use of systemic enzyme therapy as a safe alternative to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Certain proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes have been identified to have extremely beneficial actions when applied to inflammation and fibrin deposition 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.
Systemic enzymes have successfully demonstrated the ability to reduce signs of inflammation throughout the body.
One study compared blood laboratory values before and after supplementation of Exclzyme (a blend containing the proteolytic enzymes serrapeptase, bromelain, lipase, amylase and other proteases) in patients with inflammation related to rheumatic disease or trauma. Results showed a significant decrease in erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), a long-term predictor of cardiovascular disease. ESR is a measurement comparable to C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in predicting risk of a cardiac event. However, ESR does not change as rapidly as does CRP, and CRP is not affected by other factors, as is ESR.1,2
Serrapeptase, an enzyme extracted from silk worms, and nattokinase, an enzyme extracted from the Japanese fermented soybean food Nattō, have been evaluated in numerous studies for their effectiveness in inflammation reduction and show favorable results.
Inflammatory marker reduction has been documented with the supplementation of serrapeptase. The efficacy of serrapeptase was evaluated in a multi-centre, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 193 subjects suffering from acute or chronic ear, nose or throat disorders. After 3-4 days of treatment, significant symptom regression was observed in serrapeptase-treated patients. 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.3
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.4,5 Research has also shown that bromelain disrupts the migration of neutrophils 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.6
Research with nattokinase demonstrates it may help avoid or reduce the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis, cardiac infarction, pulmonary emboli and stroke. It appears to accomplish this via its fibrinolytic, anti-inflammatory and modulating effect on blood pressure. Studies on hypertension demonstrate an average drop of 10.9 percent in Systolic Blood Pressure and a 9.7 percent drop in Diastolic Blood Pressure.7,8,9
A study with rat femoral artery investigating the effect of dietary supplementation with natto extracts on the thickening of the inner most membrane (intimal) of arteries was conducted. It was shown that dietary natto extract supplementation suppressed intimal thickening (0.06 +/- 0.01; P < 0.05) compared with the control group. These findings suggest that natto extracts, because of their thrombolytic activity, suppress intimal thickening after vascular injury as a result of the inhibition of thrombi formation.10,11
Blood clots (thrombi) form when strands of fibrin accumulate in the circulatory system. These clots can cause blockage of blood flow. If blood flow is blocked, the oxygen supply to the tissue is cut off and it eventually dies. In the heart, this can result in myocardial infarction (heart attack). In the brain, it can result in strokes or mini-strokes. Deep vein thrombosis can result in pulmonary emboli. All these events can be life-threatening. An in vitro study, not only demonstrated the powerful fibrinolytic activity of nattokinase, but also significantly reduced the aggregation of red blood cells and lowered whole blood viscosity. The net results are vascular conditions that are less likely to produce blood clots. The authors suggest that nattokinase possesses very real potential as a therapeutic agent in cardiovascular health.12
The process of forming a clot is complex and involves several enzymes. However, the body mainly produces one central enzyme for dissolving a clot, plasmin. It happens that the properties of nattokinase are very similar to plasmin. Nattokinase is particularly effective because it enhances the body’s natural ability to fight blood clots in several different ways. It dissolves fibrin directly and appears to enhance the body’s natural production of both plasmin and other clot-dissolving enzymes like urokinase. An in vivo study was undertaken to demonstrate the thrombolytic activity of nattokinase, plasmin and elastase on an induced clot in the common carotid artery of laboratory rats. The results indicate the thrombolytic activity of nattokinase is stronger than that of plasmin or elastase in vivo in this model.13
Blood viscosity is an important consideration when assessing blood pressure concerns which arise during disease progression. Studies suggest enzymes such as nattokinase can help reduce red blood cell aggregation and improve flow rates.14 Serrapeptase has demonstrated the ability to cleanse the blood by removing excess fibrin from circulation, thus reducing blood stickiness and the threat of blood clot formation. Additionally, toxic substances and remnant large food particles can be further degraded in the blood and prepared for filtration through the liver and expulsion.15