Ever eat too much pineapple and wonder where the stinging sensation in your gums comes from? That might just be the protein-digesting enzyme, bromelain, kicking into action.
Bromelain is often lumped together with Quercetin in health supplements because of the tendency of bromelain to enhance the efficacy and absorption of quercetin – but it is a powerful supplement in its own right, with a wide range of benefits beyond digestion.
Bromelain is associated with a group of protein digestive enzymes that are commonly found in pineapple – either in the fruit, or stem. It is also present naturally in bananas. Most supplements source bromelain from the pineapple stem.
Various studies (both in human and animal) demonstrate efficacy with bromelain against cardiovascular disorders, LDL cholesterol, inflammatory conditions, blood pressure-related conditions, and digestive conditions. These have all been noted without any serious or adverse side effects, even when taken in larger doses.
Not only that, but bromelain also appears to exert anti-carcinogenic and anti-cancerous properties!
Bromelain is pretty widely accessible, having been approved for use as a food supplement, and distributed across the USA, Canada, and Europe.
One major benefit of bromelain is that it can be absorbed in the digestive tract without any degradation in potency, and without losing any of its anti-inflammatory activity.
According to a variety of research studies conducted over the last few decades, bromelain appears to have extremely low toxicity, with no severe side effects reported even at high doses continued for 6 months. Doses of 1500mg/kg per day in rats (keep in mind the suggested use for humans is 500mg-1000mg per day) was administered without any toxic carcinogenic growth, kidney, liver, heart, or blood defects.
So, how much should the average person be using per day? On average, the prescribed dosage typically hovers in the range of 500mg-200mg (supplements are often sold in 500mg capsule format), but it may depend on health conditions and concerns – particularly if you are on any blood-thinning medication or have any pre-existing medical conditions, you need to consult with a health care practitioner prior to use.
Generally, for recommendations on allergies or improving digestion, the recommendation is for 1000mg a day, which can be taken before meals or independently. Ideally, unless you are specifically using bromelain for digestion purposes, it is best to consume bromelain on an empty stomach. Adding quercetin along with bromelain can boost the benefits of both, particularly if the concerns are anti-inflammatory, decreasing histamine response, stabilizing mast cells, or treating general allergies.
There is a wealth of research supporting the multitude of benefits linked to bromelain – everything from addressing allergies, asthma, and arthritis to more serious concerns like inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, sinus, and lung infection.
To start with the most impressive – bromelain has demonstrated an ability to modulate cancer cells and the pathways that support the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. Noted is reduced tumor formation, tumor size, and bromelain also used the death of cancerous cells in studies conduction on human cells and animal cells. Bromelain appears to have beneficial properties for reducing the formation and growth of cancer due to its anti-inflammatory and enzymatic properties. In this sense, bromelain is cytotoxic specifically to cancer cells in various forms of cancers and has presented as a possible therapy in lung and breast cancer.
Perhaps more commonly associated with bromelain is the treatment of digestive concerns and digestive disorders – naturally, this is fairly obvious given that it is an enzyme that specifically digests proteins. Along with that, it has been shown to more effectively help the body absorb nutrients from food in addition to medications such as antibiotics, which is why some people will take bromelain in addition to prescription antibiotic courses. This is also why it is important to consult with a physician if you are on any prescription medication already prior to use.
In addition to easing digestion of protein-rich foods, it appears to help with preventing damage to the lining of the gut and digestive tract. It reduces inflammatory cytokines (a similar mechanism to quercetin) and also reduces colon inflammation. It appears to be quite beneficial for those suffering from digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, Crohn’s Disease, heartburn. Ulcers (due to H. Pylori), or constipation. Bromelain appears to also inhibits pathogenic bacteria in the intestines, such as E. Coli, which can often be a cause of digestive disturbances.
Given the potent anti-inflammatory capabilities of bromelain, it makes perfect sense to use it as a therapeutic aid for joint pain as well. Bromelain might be a good supplement to take alongside something like curcumin for therapeutic relief of chronic joint pain and inflammation. Various treatment trials have shown bromelain to be effective in reducing symptoms in those with osteoarthritis at a dose of 1000mg – 2000mg daily. Bromelain decreases pain and swelling prior to, and after operations, and supports wound healing. This may be a safer option than taking NSAIDs, which while effective, may come with long-term risk from prolonged use, or short-term risk (digestive issues) from short-term use of high-dose aspirin.
Much like quercetin – another popular compound used to treat a variety of the same concerns, particularly histamine responses, allergies, and mast cells – bromelain also shows therapeutic benefit in this regard. Bromelain appears to function as a natural antihistamine (and without potential side effects like traditional antihistamines). Bromelain’s combination of proteases and enzymes appears capable of preventing histamine response by modulating the cells responsible for creating cytokines.
Generally, bromelain is a supplement that is quite safe, with an established history of tolerance and therapeutic use. As it is an enzyme, there is also less concern over potential side effects from prolonged use or high-dose use. The only warning regarding interactions is with respect to medications (as it may enhance the effects) or prescribed blood-thinners (as bromelain may naturally act as a blood thinner with antiplatelet activity). The benefits of bromelain are wide, and considering it is an extracted from, people do not have to worry about the histamines naturally present in pineapple to get all the potential health benefits any longer!