Probably the single most beneficial use of the enzyme serrapeptase (also called serratiopeptidase), is helping people avoid surgery.
It's important to understand that serratiopeptidase is always just part of a program to heal various kinds of injuries to bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. You can never just pop a pill of serratiopeptidase and reasonably expect automatically to get well. But serratiopeptidase can make the difference between getting well naturally and having to go under the knife, and even orthopedic surgeons would warn you that surgery is inherently dangerous.
In the United States in particular and developed countries in general, surgeons tend to be incredibly skilled. When a health problem is the sort that can be surgically corrected, the results are sometimes nothing short of spectacular.
I personally know an individual who had a cancer growing to within 1 mm of the dura around his brain stem who had the tumor removed surgically without any loss of sensation or motor function. He then opted not to have chemotherapy or radiation and is alive two years since the procedure. What worked for him may not work for others, but it's an example of what's possible.
And I myself lost part of one of my hip joints to disease at the age of 10. Rather than getting fitted with an artificial hip, over and over again as I grew, the surgeon created a series of bone grafts that grew into a natural hip joint that has worked just fine for me for over four decades.
Surgeons can do amazing things. But surgery is a risky procedure. The big problem is the potential for infection. It's essentially unavoidable because 25 to 30 percent of all of us carry staph infections on our skin.
Many of us have small numbers of the “super-bugs” growing on our bodies right this very minute. The reason we don't get horrible infections is that we also have up to several thousand other species of bacteria also landed on our skin. The good bugs, the bad bugs, and all the others compete with each other for food and water and places to “root” on our skin. The vast variety of microorganisms on our skin keep strains like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and, inside the digestive tract, the super-aggressive new strains of Clostridium difficile (referred to as C-diff) in constant check.
When we have surgery, however, all the microorganisms on our skin, good or bad, are killed with antiseptics. In the era before the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, that was unquestionably a beneficial procedure that saved lives. But about 200,000 times a year in the United States alone, people who have surgery later develop life-threatening infections because all but the few most dangerous bacteria were killed by antiseptic procedures.
These bacteria literally threaten life and limb. In the United States, people who acquire MRSA infections during or after surgery run up an average of $60,000 in additional hospital bills, are 35 times more likely to have to be readmitted to the hospital, and seven times more likely to die within six months, compared with surgical patients who do not acquire MRSA infections. The only drug that fights MRSA, Vancomycin, often causes kidney damage requiring dialysis. And the problem is even worse in India and Thailand, where many Americans go to get treatment from highly trained surgeons at an affordable cost.
To put it bluntly, it doesn't do any good to get an operation for tennis elbow if you have to have your arm amputated to stop an infection. And almost any surgery will leave scars that take months or years to heal or never heal at all. Even the busiest and best orthopedic surgeons don't like to perform surgeries they don't have to.
So What Are the Alternatives to Surgery?
This is probably a good time to say that the problem is surgery, not surgeons. Physicians who know surgery also know when not to use it. You can still work with your doctor to get all the benefits you can even if you don't have surgery. And serratiopeptidase is more the icing on the cake than it's the cake itself. Serratiopeptidase is like the extra-credit problem that gets you the highest possible mark on the exam. It will push your health benefits right up to the maximum, but, to mix metaphors, first you have to do your homework.
Let's start with the high-tech options.
Have you ever seen the Hasbro toys or the Steven Spielberg movies starring Shia LaBoeuf and Josh Duhamel about Transformers? The toys and the stories are based on fictional (you do realize they're fictional) toy tanks, trucks, and cars that could transformer into robotic fighters against the forces of evil. That's not a bad analogy for a technique some doctors use called adult stem-cell therapy.
The kind of stem cells used to treat bone, muscle, and connective tissue injuries is not the kind of stem cells harvested from embryonic tissue. The kind of stem cells used to treat these kinds of injuries is known as “adult stem cells,' cells that are taken from the patient's own body.
There are two kinds of stem cells in our bodies after birth. There are hematopoietic cells, which turn into blood cells. These stem cells can be “strained” out of a blood sample and grown in the lab, and then reinjected into the patient's body. This kind of stem cells has been used for about 30 years for treating various kinds of cancer.
The other kind of stem cells is mesenchyme stem cells, which are found in the fat (your fat being your main source of stem cells for repairing the rest of your body) and in the bone marrow. These cells turn into everything but red blood cells. They migrate throughout the body, stopping where they are needed for assistance in growing new tissues. Mesenchyme stem cells can also be harvested, cultured in the laboratory, and reinjected into the body at sites of injury to accelerate healing.
How well does the technique work?
There are few problems with the method. One of the best examples of the downside to this kind of stem cell therapy occurred with a famous Texas politician who had the therapy a few weeks before he entered the US presidential race. A doctor took stem cells from his buttocks fat, multiplied them into the lab, and injected them into his spinal cord. Recovery took several weeks, and then the candidate hit the campaign trail.
While we will never know what really was due to the procedure and what was not, the same candidate later had to withdraw from the American presidential race after a series of “oops” moments that had some critics cackling that he had to have had fat in his brain. But one wonders if that wasn't exactly what happened.
Chances are high you would not have a similar problem if you have mesenchyme stem cells injected, say, into your knee or if you had the now-famous adult stem cell therapy for heart disease. But most of us don't have the great insurance coverage or the $50,000 for the procedure. So what else does cutting edge (no pun intended) technology have to offer bone and joint and muscle injuries?
Many doctors are also experimenting with injections of platelet-rich plasma directly into the sites of injury in bones, joints, and connective tissue. Platelets are the cell fragments in blood that form blood clots, but they also release growth factors and chemotactic agents, which act as a kind of homing signal for cells to deliver the nutrients needed to repair tissues. It's possible to draw blood from the patient, spin it in a centrifuge to separate the platelets out of the sample, and then reinject the concentrated platelets directly at the site of injury.
Most people whose doctors use this approach are generally happy with the results. The procedure is not covered by insurance, however, and each of the 10 to 20 injections used to treat an injury costs about $1200.
Surgery is risky. The more expensive a high-tech treatment is, the less likely it is to work. And if you don't have really good insurance you are probably going to need to try some do-it-yourself treatments. You should discuss these treatments with your doctor, but getting good results is going to be up to you.
Do-It-Yourself Treatments that Work with Serratiopeptidase
Most people who suffer torn ligaments, sprained ligaments, broken bones, and pulled or torn muscles actually make most of their improvement on their own. They don't use treatments that are an “alternative” to what their doctors can do for them, but as “complementary” to what their doctors can do for them.
Getting over sports injuries and the joint, muscle, and ligament problems that come with age isn't a matter of snorting about the things doctors don't tell us or the great conspiracies of the pharmaceutical companies. It's really just a matter of doing more for yourself than the doctor can do for you. Here are some of the techniques that people use before, during, and after taking serratiopeptidase.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Acupuncture and acupressure
- Tai chi
Let's take a look at each modality for healing and pain relief.
Homeopathy involves the use of extremely tiny amounts of toxic substances “imprinted” on water or a carrier substance to give the body the message “not like this.” If you had a problem with flatulence, for example, your homeopath might give you a treatment containing 0.0000000001% sulfur as a way of telling your body that making a sulfurous odor is bad. If you have a problem with muscle inflammation, your homeopath might give you a medication that contains a tiny amount of the irritant herb arnica, also in a 0.001% concentration (arnica is used in a higher concentration than some other homeopathic substances), to train your body “not to be inflamed.”
Homeopathic preparations of arnica, for example, have become an important part of sports medicine in Europe. While some skeptics might not believe what people say they experience when they use arnica after a sports injury, it's hard to argue with the results of a study that giving lab rats homeopathic arnica reduced the volume of inflammation in their injured paws. And it's hard to argue with the results of a clinical trial of homeopathic arnica as a treatment to prevent bruising after face lift surgery (on humans, not lab rats). Researchers at the Connecticut Facial Plastic Surgery Clinic in Farmington, Connecticut conducted a double-blind experiment in which face lift patients were given homeopathic arnica or a placebo after their operations, and neither the doctors nor the patients knew which patients received the placebo. Patients who got arnica had less swelling—even though the arnica in the homeopathic pill was diluted to just 1 part in 1 million.
I keep referring to “homeopathic” arnica because the undiluted herb is actually very toxic. But that's the whole idea. A tiny amount of a toxin teaches the body not to have a toxic reaction. And both arnica and an American homeopathic preparation called Traumeel get good results. You can buy either preparation for about $10 for a small tube of skin cream, up to $40 for a container that would last you several months.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of whole-person treatment, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, the ancient Chinese system of energy medicine, are really about more than just herbal formulas and they are certainly more than about just single herbs. A well-trained practitioner of either tradition, who also understands sports medicine, may be able to offer you astonishingly effective non-surgical treatment. Because these treatment systems are keyed to the individual, not to the disease, there's no way to test them scientifically.
But there are herbs that used in these treatments that we can test and that are proven to be helpful in treating injuries. One of the best is an herb known by its botanical name, Withania somnifera, or by its Ayurvedic name, ashwagandha. When it has been tested in scientific clinical trials, it has been found to reduce pain without reducing inflammation. That's actually a good thing, because some inflammation is necessary to “clear out” injured tissue so healthy tissue can take its place. In fact, ashwagandha increases the activity of the “clean up crew” of the immune system, the neutrophils and the macrophages, so that they can release enzymes that break down injured collagen to be replaced with new collagen.
You might be better off taking ashwagandha for pain than taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and Tylenol, and you are almost certainly better off taking ashwagandha for pain than you are taking steroids. The anti-inflammatory pain relievers interfere with the basic process of healing, by stopping inflammation to stop pain. Ashwagandha lets inflammation do its essential work. Ashwagandha just stops pain.
Tai chi is most cerebral of all the Chinese martial arts. If your injuries permit you to do tai chi, it's a great way to improve your balance and self-control and feel good, while preventing future injuries.
You may also get relief from acupuncture, acupressure, massage, and Reiki. Acupuncture, of course, is not a do-it-yourself procedure. If you are open to it, it usually works.
Acupressure is acupuncture performed without needles. Before you start giving yourself acupressure treatments, you need to know that the points you stimulate may be far away from the points to which you apply acupressure. A pulled groin would usually be treated by applying pressure to the webbing between your thumb and index finger, for example. You'll need to get a specialist to show you the points at least one time before you or a friend can give you acupressure at home.
Reiki is the connection to a universal healing energy that is applied to all kinds of health issues. There's just no basis for it in science, but tens of millions of people will tell you that it works. You don't have to see a “Reiki master” for relief. Anyone who has been taught the first degree of Reiki can treat you in person and anyone who has been taught the second degree of Reiki can treat you at a distance.
While there is an exception to every rule, including this one, herbal treatments usually are not a great idea for treating the pain of bone, muscle, and connective tissue injuries. The problem with herbal treatments is that healing injury usually involves increasing circulation. That may sound like a good thing, but increasing circulation too much can worsen bruising and swelling. If you have pain from an old injury, then devil's claw or capsaicin creams may be helpful, but they are really for relief of symptoms rather than healing the underlying problem. Serratiopeptidase helps heal the underlying causes of pain.
Serratiopeptidase for Healing Injuries
People tend to get the best results from serratiopeptidase when they use it along with other medical and self-treatments. The reason for this doesn't really have to do with how the enzyme works. It has more to do with taking charge over your healing process by what you do than relying on any product, even an extremely helpful product like serratiopeptidase, to make you well. But in the context of a total healing program serratiopeptidase can be extremely helpful.
The way serratiopeptidase works is preventing the body from excessive self-protection. When a bone or a joint or a ligament or a muscle is injured, the body builds a protective wall of fibrin around the wound. Fibrin around an internal injury acts a little like a scab on a skin wound. The fibrin conducts platelets that release growth factors to the injury. And it forms scar tissue around the injured joint or ligament or muscle to keep it from motion that might make the injury worse.
Serratiopeptidase keeps this self-protective process from going too far. It simply dissolves fibrin into the proteins from which it is made and allows stiff or frozen joints to regain their normal range of motion without pain. It amplifies the effects of other protein-dissolving enzymes such as bromelain, papain, and chymotrypsin that prevent the accumulation of scar tissue and fluid.
Serratiopeptidase and its sister enzymes are, as I mentioned earlier, like the icing on the cake. You really don't want to break up fibrin the first day or two after an injury. It is important to avoid making an injury worse in the early stages of healing. But you do want to avoid the accumulation of scar tissue that can make stiffness or limited range of motion permanent. That's why you should NOT start serratiopeptidase or any other enzyme therapy the same day you have an injury. Wait about a week. Then use the enzyme for about six months. You may feel so much better that thoughts of surgery become a thing of the past.
Many brands of enzymes give you a lot of enzymes that do the same thing. One brand of enzymes gives you the serratiopeptidase you need to recover from injury plus the methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) you need to prevent new injuries.
Why It's Best to Use Serratiopeptidase with MSM
Methylsulfonylmethane is a chemical that is also known as dimethyl sulfone, methylsulfone, DMSO2, and MSM. It is formed when dimethylsulfoxide, or DMSO, is exposed to the air, making DMSO2.
MSM also occurs in minute amounts in nature. There are about 3 parts per million of MSM in cow's milk, and small amounts in coffee, tea, beer, Swiss chard, tomatoes, corn, and alfalfa sprouts. You'd have to eat impossibly large amounts of these foods, about 2 tons of Swiss chard, for example, to get the amount of MSM you get in a 300-mg capsule of an MSM supplement. There is also MSM in an herb known as Equisetum arvense or horsetail.
There have been about 160 scientific studies of MSM. The way it works is by reducing the activity of cells known as fibroblasts. These are the cells that make the fibrin that serratiopeptidase dissolves. Studies of the use of MSM by itself in the treatment of arthritis and sports injury consistently find that it reduces pain, swelling, and stiffness but doesn't reduce them. Products like SerraPlus by Good Health Naturally combine a relatively low dose of MSM with serratiopeptidase to keep stiffening scar tissue from coming back once serratiopeptidase has dissolved it.
After you have completely recovered from your injury you may want to use a product containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM for maybe another six months. Glucosamine and chondroitin contain the building blocks for healthy connective tissue, that protects joints and muscles from future injury.
A continuing small dose of MSM doesn't interfere with the natural and normal inflammation you achieve with resistance exercise. You need this for your muscles to grow. But just a small dose of MSM is enough to reduce aches and pains that aren't related to building more muscles. Over a period of months you can not just heal your injury but also take control over your healing routine so that you become more fit with less risk of getting hurt again.
Is there anything that can go wrong with serratiopeptidase? The one thing to remember is to let your doctor know that you are using enzymes. Chances are it's just going to be a note in your chart, but if you ever do choose to have surgery, your doctor needs to know about serratiopeptidase to manage bleeding. But if you use serratiopeptidase and other sensible treatments from the beginning, you just may not have to have surgery at all.