TOP 3 THERAPEUTIC ENZYMES: Relief for Bowel Problems, Joint Pain, Heart Disease
Enzymes are complex proteins naturally produced by the body to help digest and break down the foods we eat. Most of these enzymes are manufactured in our bodies. But when the body is unable to make enough enzymes to meet its needs, these same enzymes, extracted from either plant or animal sources, can be supplemented orally to both improve digestion as well as to reduce inflammation in the body. These main digestive enzymes are proteases (for digesting proteins), lipases (for digesting fats) and amylases (for digesting carbohydrates).
When digestive enzymes are taken with food, they help break it down into smaller particles and aid in the absorption of important nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Without adequate enzymes, the body would have a difficult time absorbing nutrients like amino acids, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and zinc, just to name a few.
When these same supplemented enzymes are taken on an empty stomach (away from food for at least an hour), they can enter the bloodstream whole and work to reduce inflammation almost anywhere in the body.
Enzymes Can Reverse Constipation, IBS, Colitis, and Arthritis
In general, I have found various types of digestive enzymes (pancreatin, serrapeptase, bromelain, papain, other plant enzymes, betaine and pepsin hydrochloride) to be very effective in reversing chronic gastrointestinal problems. These include diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, micronutrient malabsorption, diverticulitis, and diverticulosis. In fact, digestive issues are the major reason for the use of enzymes in natural healthcare practices.
Another major use of enzymes is to reverse inflammation of almost any kind just about anywhere in the body, especially in the joints (arthritis), the tendons (tendonitis) and the bursa (bursitis). I also find them to be effective in speeding healing from just about any sports injury.
Some of my pancreatic cancer patients have found that taking digestive enzymes reduces the severity of their pain and discomfort, and allows them to eat a more complete diet, thereby prolonging their survival. Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, a famous American cancer specialist, has written extensively on the use of pancreatic digestive enzymes as a cancer treatment all on its own.
Here are my top three recommended enzymes with the strongest therapeutic effect.
SERRAPEPTASE (or Serratiopeptidase) – This protein-digesting (proteolytic) enzyme was discovered in the 1970s. It was isolated from the Serratia bacteria species located in the intestines of silkworms, which make use of this strong enzyme to break out of their cocoons when they are ready for a new life stage.
Serrapeptase has mostly been used in Europe and Asia as a supplement and has only been popularized in North America in recent years. Its primary mode of action is to break down nonliving tissue in the body, including dried mucous, plaque, blockages, and other dead tissue.
One of the best-known proponents of serrapeptase was German physician, Dr. Hans Nieper, who used it with great success in treating atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease of all types. When swallowed on an empty stomach, serrapeptase is well-absorbed into the bloodstream.
Studies show that serrapeptase promotes normal blood clotting, and can reduce the size and appearance of varicose veins. It can also remove atherosclerotic plaque without harming normal healthy cells in the artery walls.
Serrapeptase soothes pain, inflammation, redness, edema, and swelling. It can speed healing from traumatic injuries like sprains and torn ligaments, and speed recovery from surgery. Serrapeptase also dissolves mucous and can thereby relieve chronic ear, nose, and throat congestion by improving drainage; thus it has beneficial effects on sinusitis and bronchitis. This enzyme also improves fibrocystic breast disease and carpal tunnel syndrome.
I have been recommending serrapeptase to many of my patients for all these health concerns for nearly eight years and have seen little to no side effects and a great deal of health benefits. There is always a concern that this enzyme will interact with blood thinners and anti-inflammatory medications but, to date, there have been no reports of toxicity and I have certainly not seen any drug-nutrient interactions. According to WebMD.com:
“Serrapeptase might decrease blood clotting. Therefore, taking serrapeptase along with medications that slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others. Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of serrapeptase during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use. Bleeding disorders: Serrapeptase might interfere with blood clotting, so some researchers worry that it might make bleeding disorders worse. If you have a bleeding disorder, check with your healthcare provider before using serrapeptase. Surgery: Serrapeptase might interfere with blood clotting. There is a concern that it might increase bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using serrapeptase at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.”
Ed. note: Serrapeptase is available in health food stores across Canada. Or to order online, see Resource List at end.
NATTOKINASE – This is an enzyme isolated from natto, a traditional Japanese food eaten for millennia, made from fermented soybeans. Japanese folklore medicine has traditionally used it for improving cardiovascular health. Studies show that, taken orally, nattokinase can break down and dissolve fibrinogen, a component of blood clots and plaques in the arteries (atherosclerosis). It improves blood viscosity and circulation in general. Regular use of nattokinase can lower high systolic and high diastolic blood pressure. It also helps optimize blood cholesterol.
Most recently, nattokinase has been shown to relieve nasal inflammation, chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), and nasal polyps. No side effects have ever been reported when nattokinase is taken on its own – without blood thinning drugs, anti-hypertensives, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and it does not lower blood pressure in those who usually have normal readings. It is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and does not require injections.
Potential side effects like excessive bleeding or bruising can occur when nattokinase is taken in conjunction with blood thinning drugs, NSAIDs, or anti-hypertensive medication. According to WebMD.com
“Nattokinase can decrease blood clotting. Taking nattokinase along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, dalteparin, enoxaparin, heparin, warfarin, and others. Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking nattokinase if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use. Bleeding disorders: Nattokinase seems to act like a “clot thinner” and might make bleeding disorders worse. Use with caution. Surgery: Nattokinase might increase the chance of bleeding too much during or after surgery. Stop taking it at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.”
Nattokinase is not approved for sale in Canada. One can, however, easily obtain it for personal use from the U.S. by mail order. (See Resource List at end.)
Many natural compounds like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and proteolytic enzymes like serrapeptase and bromelain do thin the blood naturally, but the single best natural agent that accomplishes this is nattokinase. Many natural healthcare practitioners around the world recommend nattokinase as a safe and effective alternative to warfarin and other blood thinners. According to well-known author, Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, at least 15 studies have shown that nattokinase prevents and helps dissolve blood clots responsible for heart attacks and strokes. What’s more, it has been used without incident as a natural remedy for centuries in Japan.
LUMBROKINASE – This is an enzyme derived from a species of earthworm known as Lumbricus rubellus. It promotes the breakdown of fibrinogen, a protein involved in the formation of blood clots. It basically prevents arterial blockages by dissolving fibrinogen. Hence, it has been used to improve heart health and prevent strokes. Proponents recommend lumbrokinase as a treatment for angina, diabetes, heart disease, ischemic stroke, and Lyme disease. There is also evidence that lumbrokinase can help lower high levels of fat in the blood and that it has an application in treating amyloidosis.
The published evidence of its therapeutic benefit is extensive and there are no reports of any toxicity in its past 30 years of use. There are theoretical concerns that lumbrokinase could pose an increased risk to those with bleeding disorders or those who are taking blood thinning medications, including aspirin, but to date there have been no reports of side effects or any toxicity in people using lumbrokinase with or without aspirin or other blood thinners.
Injectable streptokinase is another competitor to lumbrokinase in that it can dissolve fibrinogen, but it is useless when administered orally or rectally and is only effective when given intravenously in a hospital setting. Lumbrokinase can be taken orally, and absorption into the bloodstream via oral administration is effective.
Lumbrokinase is not approved for sale here in Health Canada. (See Resource List at end to purchase online.)
Comparison of Enzyme Activity between Serrapeptase, Nattokinase, and Lumbrokinase
According to a May 18th, 2018 article in the well-known Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine:
“Not all lumbrokinase products are made the same. Lumbrokinase is a mixture of enzymes from earthworms, thus products manufactured by different companies will have slightly different properties due to the differences in earthworm species used, extraction methods, and purification processes. As a result, some lumbrokinase products may affect lab tests like INR or aPTT and some may not. They may also differ in the type of capsules used, fillers, and the quality control processes. Despite the differences, good-quality lumbrokinase products should provide similar clinical benefits when used properly. In addition to products with standardized enzymatic activities, there are also products that use ground-up earthworms or crudely extracted earthworm proteins, which may contain lumbrokinase but without having the enzymatic strength and total enzymatic activities assayed.”
When the relative strengths of each of the fibrinolytic enzymes is compared, it is easy to see that lumbrokinase has the most active fibrinolytic activity (129,800u per mg) when compared to nattokinase (3,600u per mg) and serrapeptase (441u per mg), yet the toxicity or adverse side effects are equally minimal for all three enzymes. As with all enzyme products, whether plant- or animal-derived, there are no significant safety concerns for any of them unless they are combined with the drugs mentioned earlier or are used by people with known bleeding disorders.
In its natural form, lumbrokinase has been in use in traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries without any reports of toxicity or dangerous effects. A recent (2016) study on lumbrokinase safety concluded that, with respect to bleeding concerns, hemorrhage, kidney problems, liver problems, electrocardiogram changes, and other side effects, lumbrokinase was no different than placebo. In large amounts beyond what is therapeutically recommended, there is always the possibility of allergic reactions such as rashes and itching as well as gastrointestinal upsets like nausea and diarrhea.
Safety, Toxicity, and Availability
Side effects – I estimate that, in the past 40 years, I have prescribed enzymes to more than 5,000 patients to use for anywhere between a few weeks to several years. About 20% of my patients have been taking digestive enzymes for over 10 years with great benefits and no unwanted side effects.
While potential side effects have been documented with digestive enzymes, I have seen only minor nuisance side effects (gas, indigestion, constipation), which usually cleared with continued use of the product, adjusting the dose upwards or downwards, or by switching to a different enzyme product. Approximately 1% of my patients could not tolerate any enzymes and side effect symptoms disappeared upon stopping the product. Compared to drugs, digestive enzymes are significantly safer than most over-the-counter remedies, in my experience. In fact, while there are many documented deaths from over-the-counter Tylenol, I am unaware of any deaths from digestive enzymes. In the Resource List at end of this article, see the recent publication on natural supplement safety in the U.S. (Bronstein, et al.) where they reported zero deaths occurring with digestive enzyme use. Surely, if enzyme safety were an issue of any significance it would have been reported in this exhaustive study.
Myths – There are many myths surrounding digestive enzymes. For example, there is no truth to the belief that the taking of digestive enzymes shuts down the body’s own production of enzymes. This thinking is, at best, superstition and only applies to hormones in the body that have feedback inhibition mechanisms (e.g. thyroid hormone). The same concept does NOT apply to digestive enzymes. At least there is no supportive scientific research that confirms this theory.
In my clinical experience, I have never witnessed any patient, for whom I prescribed digestive enzymes, become dependent on those enzymes. In fact, what I have witnessed in most cases was that after three to six months of enzyme supplementation, the patient’s digestion improved substantially enough to go off the enzymes. In other words, the digestive enzyme supplement healed the enzyme insufficiency of the body’s own production. The strongest and most effective enzymes are nattokinase, serrapeptase, and lumbrokinase because they have the widest application in preventing and treating all diseases associated with chronic inflammation.
Availability – Enzyme supplements have been sold with and without prescriptions for more than 60 years in Canada, without incident. These primarily over-the-counter products are manufactured by 20+ different companies and are sold in health food stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies. Drug companies prefer to market these through medical doctors and prefer to have written prescriptions for them despite the fact that, due to their high degree of safety, this is an unnecessary practice.
In my mind, and the minds of the majority of my colleagues in natural medicine, the only reason lumbrokinase and nattokinase are prohibited from sale in Canada is because they compete with highly profitable blood thinning drugs. It has nothing whatsoever to do with side effects or any degree of toxicity. Aspirin and most other blood thinners are far more dangerous to the point of causing death. There are zero deaths reported with lumbrokinase and nattokinase.
There are currently several natural health product companies attempting to persuade Health Canada to allow these enzymes to be available in Canada. It may be years before that becomes a reality. In the meanwhile, they are both available and legal for personal use by mail order from several companies in the U.S.
Catch Dr. Rona at Whole Life Expo where he will give a talk on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 entitled: “The Connection Between Cancer and Diabetes – How to Protect Yourself.” (2:00 pm.) Admission included with All Access Pass ($15 Advance / $17 at the door)
See the Expo Showguide in Vitality’s Oct/Nov issue, or visit www.wholelifeexpo.ca for regular updates on the lecture schedule and exhibitor list. For inquiries: email@example.com or call the Expo hotline at: (416) 515-1330.
- Find Serrapeptase in your local health food store, or buy it online through: www.nationalnutrition.ca
- To order a recommended brand of Nattokinase, go to: https://tinyurl.com/VitalityNattokinase
- To order Lumbrokinase online, visit: https://tinyurl.com/VitalityLumbrokinase
- Bronstein AC, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR Jr, Green JL, Rumack BH, Dart RC. 2010 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 28th Annual Report. The full text article is available for free download here.
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- Nattokinase: http://blog.lifeextension.com/2016/12/nattokinase-is-veins-best-friend.html
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- Charlie Smith. Straight.com. Health Canada swoops in on Vancouver pharmacy selling soy-based nattokinase. http://www.straight.com/article-822951/vancouver/feds-swoop-pharmacy
- András Komócsi, MD, PhD; András Vorobcsuk, MD, PhD; Dániel Kehl, MS; Dániel Aradi, MD, PhD. Use of New-Generation Oral Anticoagulant Agents in Patients Receiving Antiplatelet Therapy After an Acute Coronary Syndrome. Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(20):1537-1545. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1362940
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- Yunqi Weng 1, Jian Yao 1, Sawyer Sparks 2 and Kevin Yueju Wang 2,* Nattokinase: An Oral Antithrombotic Agent for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18, 523; doi:10.3390/ijms18030523
- Yuko Kurosawa1, Shinsuke Nirengi1, Toshiyuki Homma1, Kazuki Esaki2, Mitsuhiro Ohta3, Joseph F. Clark4 & Takafumi Hamaoka1 A single-dose of oral nattokinase potentiates thrombolysis and anti- coagulation profiles Scientific Reports | 5:11601 | DOi: 10.1038/srep11601. 25 June 2015.
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- Ja-Young Jang1#, Tae-Su Kim2#, Jingmei Cai1, Jihyun Kim1, Youngeun Kim1, Kyungha Shin1, Kwang Sei Kim1, Sung Kyeong Park3, Sung-Pyo Lee2, Ehn-Kyoung Choi1, Man Hee Rhee4*, Yun-Bae Kim1* Nattokinase improves blood flow by inhibiting platelet aggregation and thrombus formation Lab Anim Res 2013: 29(4), 221-225 http://dx.doi.org/10.5625/lar.2013.29.4.221
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- Lumbrokinase safety study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27011386 “Bleeding risk was relatively low as demonstrated by insignificant differences in hemostasis parameters between DLBS1033 and Placebo. Neither were there significant differences between DLBS1033 and Placebo in terms of hematological parameter, each blood chemistry parameter (liver function, renal function, lipid profile, fasting blood glucose), abnormality proportions of urine test, stool occult blood, and ECG interpretation. There were no hemorrhagic symptoms (petechiae, epistaxis, hematoma) and allergic reactions encountered by study subjects during the treatment with DLBS1033 and Placebo.”
- Lumbrokinase side effects: http://nattokinasehearthealth.com/60/what-is-lumbrokinase/#
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