Chronic nasal and sinus inflammation, or chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), is one of the most common chronic diseases in adults. It is characterized by persistent symptomatic inflammation of the nasal mucosa and sinuses.
A new study indicates that nattokinase, an enzyme from Nattō, a traditional fermented food from Japan, can produce powerful effects that improve this condition. CRS tends not to respond to conventional drugs, but may respond to nattokinase.
Nattokinase is produced by adding the bacterium Bacillus natto to boiled soybeans. The bacteria try to digest the soybeans by secreting the enzyme. The most popular and scientifically studied application for nattokinase has focused on its potent fibrinolytic (“clot-busting”) activity—meaning that it breaks down fibrinogen, a component of blood clots and atherosclerotic plaque. Elevated fibrinogen levels are another clear risk factor for cardiovascular disease (in fact, there is a stronger association between cardiovascular deaths and fibrinogen levels than that for cholesterol).
Researchers decided to study nattokinase in CRS because excessive fibrin deposition in the nasal mucosa is a factor in CRS and plays a pivotal role in forming the nasal polyps so common in this condition.
A quick look at nattokinase in cardiovascular health
Nattokinase was first identified by Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi in 1980 while he was studying the clot-busting power of a variety of conventional drugs at the University of Chicago. On a whim, he put some natto in the petri dish containing a blood clot (thrombus). Much to his surprise, the thrombus was completely dissolved with 18 hours, which turned out to be considerably far less time than the drugs he was working with. He later went on to isolate nattokinase and has since examined its significance extensively.
In further clinical studies nattokinase has been shown to:
- Dissolve excess fibrin in blood vessels, which improves circulation, causes clot dissolution and reduces risk of severe clotting
- Reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) cholesterol
- Reduces blood viscosity, improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure
The ability to improve blood vessel health was quite obvious from the results of a double-blind study in patients with high blood pressure. In the study, 73 subjects with baseline untreated moderate high blood pressure were randomized to take either nattokinase or placebo. At the end of 8 weeks, subjects in the nattokinase-supplemented group showed a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared to subjects in the placebo group.
Nattokinase benefits the respiratory tract
Nattokinase benefits are not limited to the cardiovascular system, as excessive fibrin formation is a feature in many other health conditions. That’s why researchers at Fukai University in Japan sought to investigate its potential in CRS, nasal polyp formation, and asthma.
The results of their study showed that nattokinase effectively shrinks the nasal polyp tissue through fibrin degradation. Researchers also found that the viscosity of the nasal discharge and sputum from patients with CRS and asthma, respectively, was significantly reduced by incubation with nattokinase solution. The authors concluded that nattokinase may be an effective therapeutic option in patients with CRS and asthma by causing the breakdown of fibrin.
Final comments from Dr. Murray
One of most important features of the nasal passages, sinuses and healthy airways is the elasticity and fluidity of the respiratory tract secretions. If the mucus is too thick and viscous, it fosters inflammation, blocked airways, polyp formation and difficulty breathing. What the study above indicates is that nattokinase can improve these secretions and, as a result, reduce the inflammation of the airways, reduce polyp formation, and promote easier breathing. This effect is similar to other enzymes such as bromelain and serrapeptidase. This also indicates that nattokinase is a strong consideration for conditions beyond CRS, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis and sinusitis.
The typical dosage for nattokinase is 100 mg (2,000 FU) once or twice daily.
Nattokinase should be used with caution if you are taking Coumadin or anti-platelet drugs (including aspirin, but especially drugs like Plavix or Ticlid) as it may increase bleeding tendencies.
Takabayashi T, Imoto Y, Sakashita M, et al. Nattokinase, profibrinolytic enzyme, effectively shrinks the nasal polyp tissue and decreases viscosity of mucus. Allergol Int. 2017 Oct;66(4):594-602.