What do silkworms and soybeans have in common? They both have compounds that decrease pain and reduce inflammation. Many years ago my Japanese college roommate described how silkworms produce a bacteria in their gut that dissolves the cocoon so they could emerge as a moth. She also introduced me to another bacteria fermented on soybeans — natto — that reduces blood clotting and inflammation.Serrapeptase is the chemical that the silkworm produces. It is commonly used as a dietary supplement in Europe and Japan for inflammatory conditions like back pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, migraine headaches and inflammatory bowel disease. Some Japanese even use it for fibrocystic breast disease and to help inhibit plaque build-up in the arteries. Dozens of studies have been done on serrapeptase as a pain reliever, but Americans still have not discovered the many health benefits of this powerful enzyme.Natto from boiled soybeans fermented with a bacteria called Bacillus natto is also used by the Japanese for cardiovascular health and chronic pain. Nattokinase is the active component of natto that was discovered at the University of Chicago for improving circulation disorders like angina and high blood pressure, along with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In Japan or a traditional Japanese restaurant, natto is served with daikon radish and minced green onions with a dash of soy sauce. My Japanese roommate ate a breakfast of rice and natto but I preferred grilled salmon with sushi rice and natto topped with chopped green onions for lunch. Both serrapeptase and nattokinase are available as dietary supplements. Miso soup is another simple way of incorporating healthy Japanese cuisine into the diet.Betty Wedman-St. Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.