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.
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
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