Limited treatment options and a bleak prognosis 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 can 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. 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 that 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’ treatment, significant symptom regression was observed in serrapeptase treated patients. Statistical comparison confirmed the greater efficacy of serrapeptase against all the symptoms examined. It was concluded that serrapeptase has anti-inflammatory, anti-edemic and fibrinolytic activity and acts rapidly on localized inflammation.5
Reducing the amount of fibrin 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 process can help alleviate symptoms.
One research trial in Japan investigated the effect of serrapeptase on sputum properties and symptoms in patients with chronic airway diseases. After 4 weeks of serrapeptase treatment, sputum output, viscosity and sputum neutrophil count decreased significantly. In addition, the frequency of coughing and of expectoration also decreased. The researchers concluded serrapeptase may exert a beneficial effect on mucus clearance by reducing neutrophil (white blood cell) numbers and altering the viscoelasticity of sputum in patients with chronic airway diseases.6
Research on nattokinase demonstrates the enzyme may help avoid or reduce the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis, cardiac infarction, pulmonary emboli and stroke. Nattokinase 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% in Systolic Blood Pressure and a 9.7 percent drop in Diastolic Blood Pressure.7,8,9
Bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme extracted from pineapple, has also been found effective in reducing inflammation by blocking chemical signals called cytokines which promote and increase inflammation.10,11 Research has 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% decrease in the migration of neutrophils after bromelain treatment.12 Researchers hypothesize neutrophils contribute to the onset of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.13 Another study investigating lung injury in mice due to asthma displayed a qualitative reduction in pulmonary injury after taking oral bromelain.11
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 blood by removing excess fibrin from circulation, thus reducing blood stickiness and the threat of blood clot formation. Additionally, toxic substances and remnant food particles can be further degraded in the blood by serrapeptase, and prepared for filtration through the liver and expulsion.15