by RoseMarie Pierce B.Sc.Pharm.
Inflammation is the underlying factor in at least seven of the ten leading causes of death in North America. These include heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. (1) Inflammation can spread slowly and unnoticed, contributing to disease, weight gain and accelerated aging, and thus has vast implications for long-term health.
Inflammation – The Good News
Inflammation is the rapid immune response which occurs when tissues are damaged by injury, trauma, infection or allergy. In all cases, the body is programmed to carry out a similar response: redness, heat and/or pain are the initial symptoms resulting from the increased blood flow to the damaged area. Via the bloodstream, immune cells are called to the site to defend the area under attack. Inflammatory chemicals including histamine, bradykinin, cytokines and pro-inflammatory prostaglandins are released. As a protective response, these chemicals cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, creating swelling. This swelling helps to isolate foreign substances and traumatized areas from further contact with healthy body tissues. Inflammation is a key part of the body’s defense and repair system – the inflammatory response is necessary to heal wounds and infections.
Chronic Inflammation –The Bad News
When no longer needed, the inflammatory process is designed to be completely turned off or extinguished. The normal inflammatory process is short-lived, lasting only a few days. If it persists longer, it is referred to as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation, as an unhealthy inflammatory over-response, can linger for months to years, or even beyond. Inflammation can activate itself; more inflammation is created in response to the existing inflammation. It acts like a low-burning fire, continuing to stimulate and circulate inflammatory immune cells and chemicals when they may not be needed. They can damage healthy areas in our bodies, such as joints and connective tissue (causing arthritis), pancreatic tissue (causing diabetes), blood vessel linings (causing hardening of the arteries), and intestinal lining (in gluten intolerance).
What are the Causes of Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can be triggered by cellular malfunction, such as that caused by increased production of free radicals, cellular acidic toxins, elevated blood sugar levels, and oxidative stress. When the body is unable to stop the spiraling free radical chain reaction and the resulting oxidative stress damages cellular proteins, membranes and genes, this leads to systemic inflammation.
Stress, lack of exercise, obesity, poor sleep habits, low sex hormones, smoking, food-intolerances and exposure to toxins, radiation, and electronic pollution can all contribute to chronic inflammation. The largest contributor is the typical North American diet, which promotes a low-grade acidic condition in the body – known as acidosis. Studies have shown acidosis in tissue is the primary reason for the presence of pain during inflammation. Diets low in saturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids, high-sugar and overcooked foods and conversely, high in omega-3 fats, fruits, vegetables, green superfoods and mineral-rich foods can suppress inflammatory factors in the body. However, many medical practitioners still deal with inflammation by recommending over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
Anti-inflammatory Drugs are NOT the Answer
Steroid drugs such as prednisone, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) including ibuprofen and aspirin and the prescription varieties, are the standard drugs of choice. NSAIDs are among the most widely prescribed drugs for arthritis and other types of chronic and short-term inflammation. They reduce inflammation through inhibiting production of both the pro- and anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Both classes of drugs offer temporary, symptomatic relief from swelling, inflammation and accompanying pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs do not resolve the underlying issue, nor support the body in healing, and can result in a range of unpleasant and even dangerous side effects. Everything from headaches, diarrhea and nausea to bleeding ulcers and even cartilage damage is possible with prolonged use of NSAIDS. More serious adverse reactions such as blood dyscrasias, kidney damage and cardiovascular effects have been noted. Steroids and NSAIDs can also rob the body of many necessary nutrients; just taking a baby aspirin a day can deplete vitamin C, calcium, folic acid, iron, potassium and pantothenic acid. Many consumers are questioning the safety of anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals, but if left untreated, the inflammatory process can lead to devastating consequences. The good news is that there is much we can do to control unwanted chronic inflammation while also seeking to make the proper dietary and lifestyle changes.
Enzymes to the Rescue
Many people recognize the importance of digestive enzymes. But the vast majority of enzymes found in the body are the types that regulate protein function at a cellular level – inside the body. They regulate everything from liver function to the immune system and are known as proteases, or proteolytic enzymes. Proteolytic enzymes are important molecules produced continuously by the body. There are some 3000+ enzymes in the human body, most of them the proteolytic type. During inflammation, proteolytic enzymes are produced in the area of the injury in order to reduce inflammatory chemicals, destroy dead cells, and activate new tissue growth.
Protease enzymes increase the breakdown of the fibrin, a fibrous protein partially responsible for blood clots and swelling during the inflammatory process. With age, fibrin tends to build up in the body and contributes to a variety of conditions including slow wound healing, buildup of scar tissue, thickening of the blood, fibromyalgia, fibrous breasts, and uterine fibroid tumors. Pain, edema, and the pressure within tissue can be eased when enzymes intervene, converting a chronic inflammatory condition into a regenerative healing process.
Proteolytic Enzymes as Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents
For more than 30 years throughout Europe and Asia (and now in North America), proteolytic enzymes have been in wide clinical use as anti-inflammatory agents. They are a safer alternative to the many prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers that may cause undesirable side effects. One method by which proteolytic enzyme supplements work is by enhancing the normal function of our own proteolytic enzymes. And the good news is – proteolytic enzymes do not completely inhibit all phases of the inflammatory process to a point where the body is unable to trigger the normal healing process. Proteolytic enzyme supplementation reduces inflammation by neutralizing bradykinins and other inflammatory chemicals to levels where the synthesis, repair and regeneration of injured tissues can begin.
Inflammation Relief with Serrapeptase Enzyme
Serrapeptase, as known as Serratio Peptidase, is a unique proteolytic enzyme quickly gaining a reputation as one of the most potent anti-inflammatory enzyme supplements.
The serrapeptase enzyme is naturally produced by bacteria (known as Serratia 15) in the gut of silkworms, and is used to digest their protein-based silk cocoons. Serrapeptase has been isolated and is now processed commercially through fermentation. When Serrapeptase is enteric coated to protect it from the effects of stomach acid, and is taken on an empty stomach, it is easily absorbed from the intestinal tract and found enzymically active in the bloodstream. (2)
Serrapeptase enzyme activity is thought to induce the breakdown of fibrin (preventing excessive blood clots), and digest dead tissue, cysts, scar tissue and arterial plaque. Serrapeptase has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, pain-blocking and anti-edemic (prevents swelling and fluid retention) activity in a number of tissues, and that its anti-inflammatory effects are superior to other proteolytic enzymes. (3)
Unlike NSAIDs and other drugs, serrapeptase has no inhibitory effects on the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and is devoid of gastrointestinal side effects.
More Good News about Serrapeptase
Researchers have recently proposed that inflammation contributes to the development of arterial blockage. Cardiac patients with high levels of CRP (C-reactive protein, a marker for systemic inflammation) were found to have a greater risk of future heart attack and stroke, independently of other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, or cholesterol levels. (4)
The German physician and researcher, Dr. Hans Nieper, a legendary medical doctor known for his extensive use of proteolytic enzymes, named serrapeptase the “Miracle Enzyme” because of its unique abilities. Dr. Nieper used serrapeptase to treat arterial blockage in his coronary patients. (5)
Because Serrapeptase is a blood-thinning agent, it’s wise to consult your physician if you’re already taking any form of anticoagulant therapy (or, for that matter, if you suffer from any serious illness). Despite these cautions, however, serrapeptase has an excellent tolerability profile in general.
Are YOU someone who could benefit from Serrapeptase?
While studies with serrapeptase in the treatment of coronary artery disease are relatively new, it has been used successfully for years as an anti-inflammatory agent in the treatment of chronic sinusitis, to improve the elimination of mucus from the bronchopulmonary airways, traumatic injury (e.g. sprains and torn ligaments), fibrocystic breast disease, post-operative inflammation and to facilitate the therapeutic effect of antibiotics in the treatment of infections. In the urological field, serrapeptase has been used successfully for urinary bladder inflammation known as cystitis.
If you’re already taking supplements for sports injuries, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, PMS or any other condition involving inflammation, try adding or substituting serrapeptase. The results may be profound or at the very least noticeably supportive.
RoseMarie Pierce, B.Sc.Pharm, earned her degree in Pharmacy from Dalhousie University in 1972. After extensive studies in herbal and nutritional medicine, RoseMarie integrated these disciplinary practices with her pharmacy education to become Canada’s first Holistic Pharmacist. www.holistic-pharmacist.com
RoseMarie Pierce, B.Sc.Pharm, earned her degree in Pharmacy from Dalhousie University in 1972. After extensive studies in herbal and nutritional medicine, RoseMarie integrated these disciplinary practices with her pharmacy education to become Canada’s first Holistic Pharmacist.