One of the most important and valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years is that no vitamin, drug, or doctor can heal the body of a disease. All we can do is support the body while it does its own healing.
One crucial component of the healing system is your blood supply. It provides the basic transportation system to and from each and every cell in your body. Unfortunately, most individuals nowadays learn to live with varying degrees of impaired circulation. Since the clogging of blood vessels is normally a slow, gradual process, the detrimental effects also come on gradually. Products like aspirin and Coumadin (warfarin) have become essential tools of conventional medicine for “thinning” the blood and increasing blood flow.
Like most health problems, impaired circulation can result from dozens of factors. Treating the problem with “blood thinners”—natural or otherwise—may provide relief, but they’re really not the “cure.” If you want to stop the problem of impaired circulation in its tracks, you have to treat it at a much deeper level. Over the last year or so I’ve been researching and investigating a unique product that appears to get closer to the root of many problems associated with impaired circulation.
Natto is a soybean-based traditional food of Japan, used there for at least the last 1,000 years. It is a fermented product made by adding the spores of the beneficial bacteria Bacillus natto to boiled soybeans.
Natto has long been utilized as a folk remedy for heart and vascular diseases, beriberi, and fatigue. Testing done in the 1980s showed that natto contained a very potent enzyme that had the ability to not only prevent fibrous clot formation, but also to dissolve fibrous blood clots that had already formed. The enzyme was named nattokinase (“enzyme in natto”).
Since that time additional research has been done on natto and nattokinase, and the results have been very exciting, to say the least. During that same period of time, serious questions were raised regarding the role that fibrin (the strands of protein that develop into clots) plays in the occurrence of many common diseases. As a clearer picture of fibrin’s role slowly unraveled, it became increasingly clear that the use of natto and/or nattokinase could turn out to be one of the most significant breakthroughs in the treatment of a long list of diseases.
To fully understand the benefits of natto and nattokinase, you have to have a basic understanding of how and why clots, or fibrin deposits, are formed.
Your body produces numerous compounds for the sole purpose of making blood clots, or thrombi, as they are often called. Your ability to quickly form blood clots keeps you from bleeding to death when cut, and is essential to stop excess blood loss after trauma or injury. The process of clotting is complex and can occur in varying degrees.
In addition to trauma and injury, pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, et cetera) and toxins trigger the formation and release of the compound thrombin. Thrombin begins the chain of events that results in fibrin production. Then fibrin, made up of sticky protein fibers, can either accumulate and stick to the interior walls of blood vessels or continue to circulate within the bloodstream. Fibrin slows blood flow and forms the supporting matrix for blood clots.
Against the several compounds your body makes to promote clotting (or thrombi), it primarily produces only one enzyme to dissolve and break down the fibrin foundation in blood clots. That thrombolytic, or “clot-busting,” enzyme is called plasmin. Plasmin is normally produced in the endothelial cells—the cells that line the interior walls of arteries, veins, and lymph vessels. To be able to both control excess bleeding and increase blood flow when necessary, your body must produce a proper balance of these enzymes. In a very large segment of the population, these enzymes are not in balance. Thrombolytic enzymes, the ones that reduce blood clots and hyper-coagulation, are in short supply.
Japanese researchers have shown that 100 grams of natto exhibits the same fibrinolytic activity as a therapeutic dose of clot-busting drugs. Even more remarkable is the fact that while an injection of the drugs is effective for only 4 to 20 minutes, nattokinase (the enzyme in natto) maintains its activity for 4 to 8 hours. (Acta Haematol 90;84:139–143) (Hemorheol Rel Res 5(1):43–44) (Data from Japan Functional Food Research Assoc.)
Some people prefer to make natto themselves. It’s possible, but the necessary enzymes aren’t readily available. (And, frankly, the taste takes some getting used to.) Fortunately, you can now buy natto’s active enzyme, nattokinase, in capsule form. It has been made available in the US through the Allergy Research Group, under their consumer brand NutriCology. The product is labeled as NattoZyme and comes in different strengths. I recommend the 50-mg capsules, item #55281. Allergy Research Group can be contacted at www.nutricology.com. Their phone number is 800-545-9960. The generally recommended dose is one capsule in the morning and afternoon and two at bedtime.
If you do decide to go the route of eating natto, there is a caution. Individuals taking the drug warfarin, a prescription method to prevent blood clots (and also used as rat poison), should not eat natto—it has a high vitamin K content, which may impede the effectiveness of warfarin. Most nattokinase supplements have had the vitamin K removed, but if you’re on a blood thinner it’s still safest to consult with your doctor before taking nattokinase.