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Serrapeptase: The Silkworm Enzyme for Fighting Inflammation and Infection

There has been an uptrend in supplement usage in the United States, and one supplement that has gained traction recently is serrapeptase. Obtained from the silkworm, many have disputed the health benefits of serrapeptase, dismissing it as just another overhyped supplement. What are these health benefits, and are they really true? Let’s find out.

What Is Serrapeptase?

An image of a silkwormSerrapeptase is a proteolytic (protein-destroying) enzyme obtained from Serratia E-15, a bacteria produced in the intestine of silkworms. The enzyme dissolves the silk cocoon of the worm during its transformation into a moth, allowing the silkmoth to emerge.

The use of serrapeptase medically dates back to the 1960s, when scientists in Japan isolated and conducted clinical studies on the enzyme. Serrapeptase soon became a popular drug in Asia and Europe for different medical practices, particularly surgery. However, despite the clinical trials and studies, many experts still doubted the drug’s efficacy, eventually leading to some manufacturers withdrawing the drug from circulation in Asia.

The enzyme later entered the United States, but as a dietary supplement rather than a drug. Today, the enzyme goes by many names, including:

  • Butterfly extract
  • Serralysin
  • Serratiopeptidase
  • Serratiaprotease
  • Silkworm enzyme
  • Serratia E-15

Benefits of Serrapeptase

Serrapeptase has several health benefits, leading many to term it a “super enzyme.” Below, we will consider some of these benefits.

Reduce Inflammation

The commonest reason serrapeptase is used today is to combat inflammation. The use of proteolytic enzymes for inflammation dates back to the 1950s before serrapeptase was even isolated. Studies in the United States showed trypsin, chymotrypsin, and bromelain to reduce inflammation effectively. Studies on serrapeptase in the 1960s showed that it also had anti-inflammatory properties.

Contrary to what many believe, inflammation in itself is not harmful – quite the opposite, in fact. Inflammation is a part of the defense mechanism against irritants, signaling the body to ramp up the production of white blood cells and cytokines to fight infection. This type of inflammation is called acute inflammation and usually involves redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function in the affected area.

Due to serrapeptase’s anti-inflammatory properties, it is typically used in oral surgeries. One study found that serrapeptase was better at relieving lockjaw than even popular anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and corticosteroids. The same study also found that serrapeptase was safer than the other drugs analyzed.

Serrapeptase and Stress

Aside from relieving the symptoms of acute inflammation, serrapeptase may also help combat other serious conditions that may result from excess inflammation. While acute inflammation is useful to the body, inflammation may persist long after the infection or injury, producing unwanted responses. This condition is known as chronic inflammation, and one of its primary causes is stress.

The body has a stress-coping mechanism, comprised of six circuits of various organs and systems, known as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. The NEM circuit that manages inflammation in the body is the Inflammation circuit. Chronic inflammation may arise when this circuit dysregulates and stress is unchecked in the body. If this persists, it can lead to a chronic condition known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the body’s stress response cannot cope with chronic life stressors. This condition can significantly impact the quality of life. One of the ways to manage AFS is to reduce inflammation, and this can be achieved with the right supplements, potentially including serrapeptase.

Lower the Risk of Infection

An image of a bacterial infectionSerrapeptase has been found to lower the risk of bacterial infections. It does this by preventing bacteria from creating protective biofilms around themselves. A biofilm is a complex structure of microbes, protecting different bacterial colonies or single cell types, which sticks to a biotic or abiotic surface. With the formation of a biofilm, it becomes difficult for antibiotics to reach and destroy bacteria cells.

By preventing bacteria from forming these biofilms at all, serrapeptase can help increase the effectiveness of antibiotics. Serrapeptase itself does not have anti-microbial properties.

Multiple studies have investigated the effectiveness of this enzyme in reducing the risk of infection. The results have been encouraging, with most studies suggesting that combining the enzyme and antibiotics is better than just using antibiotics, especially in managing infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus.

Considering the sensitive nature of the fight against bacteria, it is necessary to be very cautious when combining medications and other treatment strategies. It is essential to find the right combinations, given the resistance many bacteria species have developed to single antibiotics. Therefore, serrapeptase is a potential management option in combination therapy for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

However, as with all medications, ensure you speak to your healthcare provider before combining your antibiotics with serrapeptase.

Manage Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in and on the walls of the arteries. This build-up is known as plaque, and it obstructs blood flow, which may lead to heart attack or stroke.

Serrapeptase may be useful in resolving atherosclerosis. This is because the enzyme, being proteolytic, can break down fibrin, an insoluble protein that is the major component of blood clots.

While the logic behind the projected use of serrapeptase in blood clots is plausible, there hasn’t been sufficient research to back it up. The reasoning behind its use is primarily anecdotal, which is an unreliable method of judging medical properties. Although more research is needed before any definitive claims can be made, serrapeptase is still a potential management option for atherosclerosis.

Relieve Pain and Swelling

Serrapeptase can help relieve pain and swelling in certain conditions due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

According to research, this enzyme can inhibit pain-inducing compounds in ear, nose, and throat conditions. There is also documented use of serrapeptase in painful dental procedures, like the removal of wisdom teeth. A study showed that dental patients who used the enzyme recorded less swelling in their cheeks than those who did not.

Combining serrapeptase with other painkillers, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, showed a greater pain and swelling reduction than when the painkillers were used alone.

Despite this enzyme’s promise as a potential pain and swelling reliever, many experts have cast doubts on its effectiveness. Some studies show that serrapeptase does not significantly reduce pain or swelling. There is a need for more research to confirm the conditions the enzyme works for and the extent of its ability.

Manage Respiratory Conditions

Serrapeptase has been found useful in managing chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs), which are conditions that affect the airways and other structures of the lungs. Some of the most common CRDs are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary hypertension, asthma, and occupational lung diseases.

The way serrapeptase works is to limit lung inflammation and also improve mucus clearance. There have been many studies to determine the effect of this enzyme in these respiratory conditions. A study found that the enzyme can help reduce the frequency of coughing and the ejected sputum. The same study showed that serrapeptase reduced the viscosity and elasticity of secretions, implying better mucus clearance from the lungs.

Chronic respiratory diseases are incurable, and serrapeptase can only help improve the patient’s quality of life. Still, more research is required to confirm the stated respiratory benefits of the enzyme. Also, ensure you speak to your medical practitioner before using serrapeptase, or any supplement at that, for a chronic health condition.

Potential Side Effects of Serrapeptase

An image of a lung scan showing inflammationWhile there have been many studies on this enzyme, most of these studies have been short-term. Therefore, it is difficult to tell if there are long-term side effects to taking the supplement. In four-week-long trials, the supplement is generally safe. Still, the following side effects may be observed.

  • Pneumonitis (lung inflammation). This is rather contradictory, but serrapeptase may actually cause inflammation, especially in elderly adults, because of the sudden decline in white blood cells.
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Skin reactions, like rashes
  • Cough
  • Stomach ache
  • Blood clot issues

Not everyone will experience these side effects, but if you notice them, you should stop taking the supplement immediately. If the side effects persist after you have discontinued the use of the enzyme, get in touch with your healthcare provider.

Is Serrapeptase Safe?

According to the FDA, serrapeptase is a dietary supplement, not a drug. By implication, the FDA imposes less stringent safety and efficacy regulations on the product. Therefore, safety is not as assured as common prescription and over-the-counter medications. You should have few safety concerns if you purchase the supplement from reputable sources. However, buying from untrusted sources can be detrimental to your health as the product is more likely to be substandard.

Further, the long-term effects of serrapeptase are unknown. The available studies usually last no longer than four weeks, which is not long enough time to observe the long-term effects of using the supplement. While the supplement is generally safe, people managing chronic inflammatory conditions should exercise caution.

Serrapeptase can help dissolve blood clots, so it should not be taken with blood thinners like Warfarin. Also, many scientists are concerned that the supplement can worsen bleeding disorders as well as interfere with blood clotting during surgery. Therefore, you should not take the supplement at least two weeks before surgery.

A study shows that serrapeptase can increase the size of an abscess. This may be because it breaks down exudates in neighboring tissues. As such, do not use the supplement if you have any type of abscess.

The effect of the enzyme on breastfeeding and pregnant women is unknown. To be safe, refrain from taking the supplement when pregnant or nursing a baby.

Overall, the supplement is safe for adults, but you should still ensure you talk to your healthcare provider before you start using it if you have health concerns. This is especially important if you have adrenal fatigue, other chronic conditions, or are on medication.

Serrapeptase Dosage Information

Serrapeptase commonly comes as capsules, gelcaps, and enteric-coated tablets. Currently, there is no consensus on how much of the supplement you should use daily. However, most clinical trials use no more than 60mg (120,000 SPU) of the supplement daily.

Ensure you do not exceed the stated recommended dose on the product’s label. Typically, labels advise using between 10mg (20,000 SPU) and 60mg (120,000 SPU) daily. For oral surgeries and dental procedures, the frequency of dosing may increase. You should speak to your healthcare provider for more information.

While manufacturers advise that the supplement be used on an empty stomach, one of the common side effects is stomach ache. If you observe stomach aches when using the supplement, it is advisable to take it with food. Alternatively, enteric-coated tablets may also help reduce this side effect.

Conclusion

An image of a Serrapeptase tabletSerrapeptase is a dietary supplement obtained from the silkworm. The supplement has gained prominence in the United States in recent years because of the following reported health benefits:

  • Reduction of inflammation
  • Pain relief
  • Management of atherosclerosis
  • Management of chronic respiratory diseases
  • Lower risk of infection

Although more research is necessary to confirm these health benefits, the supplement is promising.

While it is generally safe, some people may experience some side effects. If that happens, the use of the supplement should be discontinued immediately. Also, you should contact your healthcare provider before taking the supplement, particularly if you have other chronic conditions.

For more information about serrapeptase and other helpful supplements, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free, no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss your questions and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2023 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Serrapeptase is generally safe for adults. However, there are not enough studies on breastfeeding and pregnant women, so it is not advised for them. Also, the use of the supplement in older adults is associated with lung inflammation. People with chronic inflammatory conditions are also advised against its use.

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