Bromelain is also commonly referred to as the pineapple enzyme. The specific active ingredient in bromelain is an enzyme called protease. It is an extract of the pineapple stem which is found at the core of the fleshy part that is mostly consumed. Bromelain extracts have been used for a variety of health conditions either as standalone health supplement or as part of a collection of ingredients in a composite supplement.
How it works
The protease in bromelain is responsible for the breakdown of proteins and peptides. This is important in the metabolism of proteins. Proteins are vital for many body processes to function normally. For example, protease malfunction will lead to poor absorption of proteins from the gut with resulting serious health outcomes. Proteases also help in the breakdown of proteins to their basic components called amino acids. Any issues with the metabolism of these nutrients will affect overall health and wellbeing.
Why some people use bromelain
There are many reasons why people use this enzyme. Some uses have little science-based evidence for their efficacy. A few of these include:
- Reduction of swelling due to surgery or infection
- In the management of some inflammatory gut conditions such as ulcerative colitis
- In weight loss as it is thought to enhance body fat burning
- As a means to remove dead tissue in wounds (debridement)
- In reducing fluid accumulation in the lungs
- In promoting muscle fatigue recovery after intense training
- In reducing risk of clot formation or slowing it down altogether
What science has found out about bromelain
There are varying degrees of the health benefits associated with bromelain. It is generally agreed that more data is needed regarding this benefits. All in all, research suggests that the following benefits may be realized.
- Digestive health support. It reduces indigestion symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and gastritis. This is partly thought to be due to its stomach acid balancing properties.
- Strengthens blood vessels and therefore reduces the risk of varicose veins and hemorrhoids
- Supports the immune system. One of the ways it does this is through the regulation of inflammatory response during stressful situations.
- Helps in weight loss management.
- Supports the respiratory system. It helps in decongesting blocked nostrils and sinuses.
- It has anticancer properties
- Supports good heart health. One study found that bromelain has the potential to reduce heart muscle infarcts which in turn greatly reduce the risk of heart attack
- Supports neurological health. A study published in the Experimental Nutrition of February 2001 found that bromelain improved brain circulation and could possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Looking at all the benefits of bromelain together, they can have antiaging properties.
Sources of bromelain
A good natural source of bromelain is the pineapple. It is found in the stem and fleshy parts of the fruit. However, the stem has much more concentration of the enzyme and hence used mostly for the commercial extraction of the enzyme.
Nutritional supplements are another source of the enzyme. This can be in a product with many more ingredients that include vitamins and minerals or it can be a bromelain only supplement. Still, it can be as part of a number of ingredients with digestive enzymatic effects. Examples of these different types of supplements can be found here and here.
Bromelain is considered a generally safe product. This is particularly so when consumed in its natural form as found in pineapples. When in supplements form, it is safe so long as it is taken as directed by the manufacturers. It is however, important to point out that different consumers may have different experiences after taking bromelain or other supplements. Some transient issues associated with the use of this enzyme include:
- Mild digestive problems such as diarrhea
- Increase menstrual flow
- Allergies that may manifest as skin rashes or respiratory symptoms
If you are on any medications, it is important to talk to your health provider because some medications can interact with bromelain. The enzyme can reduce the action of some medications while increasing the potency of others. Common drugs and supplements that interact with bromelain include:
- This is a blood thinning drug that is potentiated by bromelain. Concurrent use of the two can lead to serious bleeding.
- This is a popular supplement with poor absorption properties. Bromelain supports its absorption and together they create a synergistic anti-inflammatory effect.
- Increases the absorption of quercetin – another popular antioxidant supplement
- Bromelain increases the absorption of the following drugs
- An absolute contraindication to the use of bromelain is a known history of allergic reaction to pineapples or products derived from the fruit.
For better results, take bromelain supplements on an empty stomach. If you experience gut problems such as gastritis or diarrhea, then you may have to avoid using the supplement on an empty stomach.
A personal effort in taking care of your health is an important lifestyle choice. Nutritional supplements can play a big role in helping you achieve your health goals. Using enzymes to support your gut health will have a domino effect on improving your overall health. If you would like to use wholesome bromelain-containing products you can either choose Daily Multivitamin Essential or Superplant Enzymes which are premium products from Belisan.
Rathnavelu, V., Alitheen, N. B., Sohila, S., Kanagesan, S., & Ramesh, R. (2016). Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications. Biomedical Reports, 5(3), 283–288. http://doi.org/10.3892/br.2016.720
Dave, S., Kaur, N. J., Nanduri, R., Dkhar, H. K., Kumar, A., & Gupta, P. (2012). Inhibition of Adipogenesis and Induction of Apoptosis and Lipolysis by Stem Bromelain in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes. PLoS ONE, 7(1), e30831. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0030831
Juhasz, B., Thirunavukkarasu, M., Pant, R., Zhan, L., Penumathsa, S. V., Secor, E. R., … Maulik, N. (2008). Bromelain induces cardioprotection against ischemia-reperfusion injury through Akt/FOXO pathway in rat myocardium. American Journal of Physiology. Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 294(3), H1365–H1370. http://doi.org/10.1152/ajpheart.01005.2007.
Pavan, R., Jain, S., Shraddha, & Kumar, A. (2012). Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain: A Review. Biotechnology Research International, 2012, 976203. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/976203