What is Bromelain?
It is a mixture of enzymes found naturally in the juice and stem of pineapple and was first isolated from the pineapple plant in the late 1800s. It has been widely used as a meat tenderiser in the Caribbean and this is one of the reasons why pineapple is often served with gammon.
It is known as a proteolytic enzyme because it helps in the digestion of protein and helps enhance the absorption of nutrients from food and supplements. It is also thought to have effects outside the digestive tract and is often marketed as a natural anti-inflammatory for conditions such as arthritis. In Germany it is a very popular supplement and is approved by the ‘Commission E’ for use as an anti inflammatory for the sinuses and nose in cases where patients have had an operation or an injury. Preliminary studies suggest that in sinusitis it may help reduce congestion, improve breathing and suppress coughing. Although studies show mixed results, bromelain may reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain.
When bromelain is used as a digestive aid it is taken with food, but as an anti inflammatory it needs to be taken away from food on an empty stomach for the best absorption.
Bromelain may help with mild pain associated with osteoarthritis. It’s a common ingredient in nutritional supplements marketed as a natural pain remedy for arthritis. It is often used to reduce inflammation associated with tendinitis, sprains and strains, and other minor muscle injuries.
Bromelain can digest proteins and may help relieve stomach upset or heartburn, particularly when used in conjunction with other digestive enzymes such as amylase (which digests starch) and lipase (which digests fat). One animal study suggests that the antibacterial effects of bromelain may help control diarrhoea caused by bacteria. Another study suggests bromelain may be a novel therapy for inflammatory bowel disease.
Bromelain may also help to keep platelets from sticking together and even to the artery walls which helps to prevent hardening of the arteries. It also prevents clumping which reduces the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Another beneficial aspect of bromelain is that it enhances the absorption of medications. In one study, 53 patients were given a combination of bromelain and antibiotics that were infected with a variety of infectious aliments. It was shown there was a significant reduction in symptoms when the patients received the combined therapy compared to those who only received the antibiotic. It may also increase the effect of drugs that are a sedative including alcohol, and could interfere with any blood thinning drugs or herbs.
Bromelain Side effects
Side effects from bromelain are generally mild and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and excessive menstrual bleeding.
People who are allergic to pineapples should not take bromelain because skin reactions or asthma – like symptoms may occur.