Pineapple tastes excellent when you add it to salads. It is also an excellent base for smoothies and cocktails.
But this is not the only reason why you should stock up on this delicious tangy-sweet fruit. Pineapple is a good source of bromelain, an enzyme that helps to break down proteins and aids in digestion.
Bromelain has been used in South and Central America for treating various medical ailments for centuries.
Read on to learn more about bromelain and its various health benefits?
What is bromelain?
Bromelain is an enzyme derived from the fruit, stem and the juice of the pineapple plant.
It is a mix of different thiol endopeptidases and other components like phosphates, glucosidase, peroxidase, cellulase, escharase, and several protease inhibitors (1).
Pineapple is the only known significant source of bromelain. Vicente Marcano first discovered it in 1891.
Russell Henry Chittenden, another chemist, did further research on bromelain and described it as the proteolytic ferment of pineapple juice.
In the past, people used bromelain as a meat tenderizer. In folk medicine, it was used to reduce pain and swelling.
Its anti-inflammatory properties also helped in reducing muscle pain and alleviating the symptoms of arthritis.
Though the pineapple fruit was the first source of bromelain, researchers later discovered that the pineapple stem had a much higher concentration of this enzyme.
Over the years, manufacturers have developed faster techniques of extraction and large-scale production and purification of bromelain.
Today bromelain is used to treat many different health problems like connective tissue injuries, arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, and sinus infections.
In Germany, bromelain has been used to treat connective tissue injuries and blood clots and to ease swelling following surgery.
- Also read: Top 10 Health Benefits of Coenzyme Q10
Health benefits of bromelain
The primary benefit of bromelain is improving protein absorption. However, bromelain is also used to treat many other ailments. Let us learn about them –
1. Reduces joint pain
Bromelain’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties make it an effective treatment for pain, joint stiffness, and soft-tissue swelling associated with osteoarthritis.
A review of clinical studies published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine studied bromelain’s effectiveness in treating arthritis of the knee and the shoulder.
The studies in which the participants were given 400 mg of bromelain two times a day showed improvement in the symptoms of arthritis.
During another study, the patients were given 650 mg bromelain capsules three times a day.
According to the researchers, patients with acute pain felt a 60 percent reduction in severe pain and around 50 percent reduction in those with chronic disorders(2).
2. Improves digestion
Bromelain helps to digest proteins, and this enhances the body’s ability to absorb nutrients more effectively.
During a 2008 lab study, researchers discovered that bromelain could reduce colonic inflammation and decrease the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines that damage the gut lining.
They suggested that bromelain can be novel therapy to treat IBD (3).
Another animal-based study showed that when mice were treated orally with bromelain, it reduced the severity of colonic inflammation and the incidence of colitis (4).
3. Prevents cancer
According to a 2010 study, bromelain can help to combat cancer. It has a direct impact on the cancer cells and their microenvironment, as well as in the modulation of immune, inflammatory, and hemostatic systems (5).
Bromelain has anti-tumor properties, and it promotes apoptotic cell death (6). According to animal-based studies, bromelain can induce the production of cytokines.
It inhibits metastasis by reducing platelet aggregation. A 2014 study from Australia showed that bromelain has potential as a therapeutic agent in malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.
The study showed that bromelain induces cell death via apoptosis and autophagy (7).
4. Treats asthma
A study from the Department of Immunology, University of Connecticut, suggests that bromelain can be used in the treatment of asthma and hypersensitivity disorders (8).
A 2013 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine studied the anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties of bromelain on mice.
According to the study, bromelain reduces allergic sensitization and the development of inflammatory responses affecting the airways (9).
The study showed that bromelain is capable of targeting the underlying cause of asthma and allergies – an oversensitive immune system.
5. Treats chronic sinusitis
During this study, 12 patients with chronic rhinosinusitis and those who had undergone prior sinus surgery were given bromelain tablets (500 PIF) for three months.
The results showed an improvement in the total symptom scores, total rhinoscopy scores, and sinonasal outcome test. There were no adverse effects.
6. Improves post-surgery healing
Several studies have shown that bromelain can reduce pain, edema, and improve the potency of antibiotic. All of these aspects are related to post-surgery healing.
According to a study which was published in the Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, 40 patients who had their impacted molars surgically removed were treated with bromelain along with amoxicillin.
Out of the 40 patients, bromelain was effective in 28 patients. These patients observed a reduction in swelling and pain after bromelain (11).
Bromelain also helps reduce the healing time for soft-tissue wounds. During one clinical trial, the patients that took bromelain had a faster reduction of edema as compared to those who didn’t take any bromelain.
7. Assists in burn healing
Bromelain can help in the removal of damaged tissue from the wounds of second and thirds degree burns and accelerate healing.
Bromelain contains escharase, which is nonproteolytic and has no hydrolytic enzyme activity against normal protein substrates.
Bromelain is better than surgical removal of burned tissue as surgical incisions can be painful, nonselective, and it exposes the patient to repeated anesthesia and significant bleeding (12).
8. Prevents cardiovascular disease
Bromelain can treat cardiovascular disease as it is an inhibitor of blood platelet aggregation; this it minimizes the risk of arterial thrombosis and embolism (13).
Research suggests that bromelain supplement can reduce any of risk factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases.
9. Weight loss
According to research from the Institute of Microbial Technology, India, protein stem bromelain irreversibly inhibits 3T3-L1 adipocyte differentiation by reducing adipogenic gene expression and induces apoptosis and lipolysis in mature adipocytes (14).
It may also help with weight loss as it reduces pain and improves physical activity, and it also improves digestion.
Ways to add bromelain to your diet
1. Eat pineapple core
Pineapple is a rich source of bromelain, and its core has the highest concentration of this enzyme.
Unfortunately, this is also the part that most people avoid eating as it is firmer and less juicy.
However, if you want to enjoy the benefits of this enzyme, you must eat the core of the pineapple.
Avoid eating canned pineapple as the core is typically removed in such cases, and it contains added ingredients.
2. Eat papaya
You must eat papaya along with pineapple. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which is known to boost the absorption of bromelain.
So, to gain maximum benefits of bromelain, eat these two delicious fruits together.
3. Drink fresh pineapple juice
Drink fresh pineapple juice and not the store-bought variety. While juicing the pineapple, make sure you use the bromelain-rich core as well.
4. Bromelain supplements
If you do not like eating pineapple, you can take bromelain supplements. These are available in the form of powder and capsules.
You can take these supplements with your meals if you want to improve digestion. For other conditions, you can take it on an empty stomach.
The dosage ranges from 80 to 400 mg per serving, two or three times a day.
Side effects and risks
Bromelain can cause some side effects in people, especially if it is taken in high doses. These include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and heavy menstrual bleeding.
Bromelain can have an antiplatelet effect on the blood and can cause heavy bleeding if you are taking blood thinners such as Warfarin, and Pradaxa.
Avoid using bromelain if you are scheduled for surgery. Some people may also develop an allergy to bromelain.
The symptoms include itchy skin, nasal congestion, watery eyes, and trouble in breathing. People with wheat, latex, pollen, celery, carrot, and fennel allergies should also avoid using bromelain.
There isn’t enough information on the safety of bromelain on pregnant and breastfeeding women. Therefore they should avoid using this supplement.
Bromelain is an enzyme derived from the fruit, stem and the juice of the pineapple plant. Vicente Marcano first discovered it in 1891.
In the past, bromelain was used as a meat tenderizer. In folk medicine, it was used to reduce pain and swelling.
Bromelain helps in reducing joint pain, improves digestion, prevents cancer, treats asthma, treats chronic sinusitis, improves post-surgery healing, assists in burn healing, prevents cardiovascular disease, and aids in weight loss.
To add more bromelain to your diet, ensure that you eat the core of the pineapple and add the cure when you juice the fruit. You can also use bromelain supplements.
Bromelain can cause an allergic reaction and mild side effects in some people. Avoid using this enzyme if you are taking blood thinners or are scheduled for surgery.