WHAT IS NATTOKINASE?
Nattokinase is a potent fibrinolytic enzyme extracted and highly purified from a traditional Japanese food called natto. Natto is a fermented cheese-like food that has been used in Japan for over 1000 years for its popular taste and as a folk remedy for heart and vascular diseases. natto is produced through a fermentation process by adding Bacillus natto, a beneficial bacteria, to boiled soybeans. The resulting nattokinase enzyme is produced when Bacillus natto acts on the soybeans. While other soy foods contain enzymes, it is only the natto preparation that contains the specific nattokinase enzyme.
THE DISCOVERY OF NATTOKINASE
Doctor Hiroyuki Sumi had long researched thrombolytic enzymes searching for a natural agent that could successfully dissolve thrombus associated with cardiac and cerebral infarction (blood clots associated with heart attacks and stroke), and could degrade fibrin, which coagulates prior to full clot formation. Sumi discovered nattokinase in 1980 while working as a researcher and majoring in physiological chemistry at Chicago University Medical School. After testing over 173 natural foods as potential thrombolytic agents, Sumi found what he was looking for when natto was dropped onto artificial thrombus (fibrin) in a Petri dish and allowed to stand at 37 C (approximately body temperature). The thrombus around the natto dissolved gradually and had completely dissolved within 18 hours. Sumi named the newly discovered enzyme “nattokinase”, which means “enzyme in natto.” Sumi commented that nattokinase showed “a potency matched by no other enzyme.”
POTENT THROMBOLYTIC ACTIVITY
The human body produces several types of enzymes for making thrombus, but only one main enzyme for breaking it down and dissolving it— plasmin. The properties of nattokinase closely resemble plasmin. According to Dr. Martin Milner, from the Center for Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, what makes nattokinase a particularly potent treatment, is that it enhances the body’s natural ability to fight blood clots in several different ways, because it so closely resembles plasmin and it dissolves fibrin directly. In addition, it also enhances the body’s production of both plasmin and other clot-dissolving agents, including urokinase (endogenous). “In some ways”, Milner says, “nattokinase is actually superior to conventional clot-dissolving drugs. T-PAs (tissue plasminogen activators) like urokinase (the drug), are only effective when taken intravenously and often fail simply because a stroke or heart attack victim’s arteries have hardened beyond the point where they can be treated by any other clotdissolving agent. Nattokinase, however, can help prevent that hardening with an oral dose of as little as 100 mg a day.” This may be very important because the fibrin accumulation associated with endothelial cells can eventually interfere with oxygen and nutrient transfer to body cells and removal of waste products. Hence, fibrin accumulation on the vascular endothelial lining interferes with the primary functions of the blood and may be a critical factor in aging. We think that by clearing fibrin from the vascular endothelial cells, nattokinase may function as an anti-aging enzyme that has heretofore been unavailable to physicians.
THE PROLONGED ACTION OF NATTOKINASE (NK)
Nattokinase produces a prolonged action (unlike antithrombin drugs that wear off shortly after IV treatment is discontinued) in two ways: it enhances the body’s endogenous fibrinolytic activity and it dissolves existing thrombus. Both the efficacy and the prolonged action of NK can be determined by measuring levels of EFA (euglobulin fibrinolytic activity) and FDP (fibrin degradation products), which both become elevated as fibrin is being dissolved. By measuring EFA & FDP levels, activity of NK has been determined to last from 8 to 12 hours. An additional parameter for confirming the action of NK following oral administration is a rise in blood levels of TPA antigen (tissue plasminogen activator), which indicates a release of TPA from the endothelial cells and/or the liver.
THE MECHANISM BEHIND THROMBUS
Blood clots (or thrombi) form when strands of protein called fibrin accumulate in a blood vessel. In the heart, blood clots cause blockage of blood flow to muscle tissue. If blood flow is blocked, the oxygen supply to that tissue is cut off and it eventually dies. This can result in angina and heart attacks. Clots in chambers of the heart can mobilize to the brain. In the brain, blood clots also block blood and oxygen from reaching necessary areas, which can result in senility and/or stroke.
Thrombolytic enzymes are normally generated in the endothelial cells of the blood vessels. As the body ages, production of these enzymes begins to decline, making blood more prone to coagulation and fibrin accumulation in the vascular endothelium. Eventually, this mechanism can lead to cardiac or cerebral infarction, as well as other conditions. Since endothelial cells exist throughout the body, such as in the arteries, veins and lymphatic system, poor production of thrombolytic enzymes can lead to the development of thrombotic conditions virtually anywhere in the body.
It has recently been revealed that coagulative clogging of the cerebral blood vessels may be a cause of dementia. It has been estimated that 60 percent of senile dementia in Japan is caused by thrombus. Thrombotic diseases typically include cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral infarction, cardiac infarction and angina pectoris, and also include diseases caused by blood vessels with lowered flexibility, including senile dementia and diabetes (caused by pancreatic dysfunction). Hemorrhoids are considered a local thrombotic condition. If chronic diseases of the capillaries are also considered, then the number of thrombus related conditions may be much higher. Cardiac infarction patients may have an inherent imbalance in that their thrombolytic enzymes are weaker than their coagulant enzymes. Nattokinase holds great promise to support patients with such inherent weaknesses in a convenient and consistent manner, without side effects such as increased bleeding.
THE BENEFITS OF NATTOKINASE ON BLOOD PRESSURE
Traditionally in Japan, natto has been consumed not only for cardiovascular support, but also to lower blood pressure. In recent years, this traditional belief has been confirmed by several clinical trials. In 1995, researchers from Miyazaki Medical College and Kurashiki University of Science and Arts in Japan studied the effects of nattokinase on blood pressure in both animal and human subjects. In addition, the researchers confirmed the presence of inhibitors of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), which converts angiotensin I to its active form angiotensin II within the test extract, which consisted of 80% ethanol extract of lyophilized viscous materials of natto. ACE causes blood vessels to narrow and blood pressure to rise—by inhibiting ACE, nattokinase has a lowering effect on blood pressure.
The traditional Japanese food natto has been used safely for over 1000 years. The potent fibrinolytic enzyme nattokinase appears to be safe based upon the long-term traditional use of this food. Nattokinase has many benefits including convenience of oral administration, confirmed efficacy, prolonged effects, cost effectiveness, and can be used preventatively. It is a naturally occurring, food-based dietary supplement that has demonstrated stability in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as changes in pH and temperature.
As indicated by recent research, we suspect that sticky blood caused by immune activation and coagulation processes may be a common occurrence in diverse degenerative pathologies. Natural agents such as nattokinase, which directly degrade fibrin, prevent its formation, and degrade clots, may have very broad applications in achieving optimum health.
It is interesting, that with the discovery of the importance of gut permeability problems and dysbiosis, many came to understand that for optimal nutrient absorption, the gut wall could potentially be a major barrier. But here, we are suggesting that broad ranging stressors leading to fibrin accumulation at the intima of the vascular endothelial cells, may harbor pathogens and block nutrient and oxygen flow to the cells. The accumulation may also block the elimination of toxins, and increase inflammation and immune activation, thereby constituting a significant portion of aging and/or chronic illness. Therefore, nattokinase may be a valuable enzyme for cleaning the vessels, and optimizing the function of the blood.
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