Risky treatment options with no guarantee of effectiveness 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 fibrin buildup 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.
Supplementing with fibrinolytic (fibrin digesting) enzymes can be beneficial in limiting and even reducing the amount of scar tissue buildup. The most notable fibrinolytic enzymes are nattokinase, an enzyme extracted from the Japanese fermented soybean food Nattō, and serrapeptase, an enzyme extracted from silkworms.1,2
Nattokinase is particularly effective because it enhances the body’s natural ability to fight excess fibrin deposits 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 such as 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.3 Nattokinase appears to reduce the formation of dangerous clots and inhibit arterial thickening not only by direct fibrinolysis of clots, but also by inhibition of the plasma protein plasminogen activator inhibitor.4
The efficacy of serrapeptase was evaluated in a multicenter, 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 serrapeptase has anti-inflammatory, anti-edemic and fibrinolytic activity, and acts rapidly on localized inflammation.5
Reducing the amount of fibrin deposition is only one aspect of how systemic enzymes can function. Chronic inflammation is often the root cause of a number of conditions and controlling the inflammation process can help alleviate symptoms.
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.6,7,8
A study was conducted in men with amicrobial prostato-vesiculitis (APV is a non-infectious inflammation of the prostate) to determine if treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) drugs, as well as serrapeptase, could reduce inflammation and swelling of the prostate. The doctors conclude that in APV patients, the treatment with serrapeptase is an effective therapy, producing multiple positive effects comparable to NSAIDs without the same harmful side effects.
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.10,11 Research shows 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.12
Systemic enzymes have successfully demonstrated the ability to reduce signs of pain throughout the body. Serrapeptase has been evaluated in numerous studies for its effectiveness in pain reduction and showed favorable results.
One study was conducted comparing the efficacy of two proteolytic enzymes in the treatment of venous inflammatory disease. The efficacy of Serrapeptase and Seaprose S (a protease) was assessed using good or excellent results as the measure of effective treatment. 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, both enzymes were effective. It can thus be confirmed that both enzymes were effective in patients with inflammatory venous disease.13 (Note: Seaprose S has since been withdrawn from the market).
A prospective study was conducted on 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.14