Beloved for its sweet and tangy tropical flavour, pineapple is a favourite fruit of people all over the globe. In fact, per capita consumption of fresh pineapple is on the rise, thanks in part to the increasing availability of pre-cut fresh pineapple in supermarkets. The average use of pineapple per person was over seven pounds in 2016–2017, an increase of 4% over the previous year. Costa Rica, the world’s largest supplier of pineapple, ships around 200 million cases of pineapple per year, with roughly half going to the United States and the other half to Europe.
In addition to its singularly delicious taste, pineapple is also highly nutritious. Pineapples contain an impressive amount of nutrients like vitamin C and manganese, and they’re rich in antioxidants. When it comes to health benefits of the various constituents found in pineapple, though, it’s an enzyme called bromelain that rises above the rest.
What is bromelain?
Derived from the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant, bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme. Also known as protease, proteinase or peptidase, proteolytic enzymes are any group of enzymes that work to break down long, chainlike molecules of protein into their building blocks: peptides and amino acids.
Pineapple has a long history of medicinal use, and bromelain is widely believed to be its most active medicinal ingredient. While bromelain helps the body in a number of ways, its two primary benefits are:
When taken with food, bromelain can act as a digestive enzyme. It breaks the protein you eat into smaller components, allowing them to be more easily absorbed by the small intestine. The ability of bromelain to promote healthy digestion may be especially helpful for those with pancreas problems. The pancreas is responsible for making digestive enzymes in the body, but some people have a condition called pancreatic insufficiency, which means that the pancreas isn’t able to make the amount of digestive enzymes necessary to properly break down food. Bromelain is so good at breaking down tough proteins that it’s actually used as a commercial meat tenderiser!
When taken in between meals instead of with food, bromelain may function as an anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammation throughout the body. The ability of bromelain to reduce inflammation has been widely studied. Some of the many inflammatory conditions bromelain has been used to treat include arthritis, joint pain, tendonitis, sinus swelling and inflammatory bowel disease. Bromelain has also been found to speed recovery from surgery, injury and other trauma.
How can bromelain reduce inflammation in the body?
Proteolytic enzymes like bromelain work to fight inflammation in a number of different ways. Some of these mechanisms are:
- Improving circulation by thinning the blood, allowing for more efficient transport of oxygen to, and removal of waste from, inflamed tissue
- Reducing swelling of mucous membranes
- Breaking down proteins and cellular debris at the injury site, speeding their passage through the lymphatic system and thus reducing swelling more quickly
What does the science say about bromelain and inflammation?
When it comes to the question of whether bromelain can effectively reduce inflammation in the body, the science speaks for itself. Researchers have conducted many, many studies to examine the relationship between bromelain and inflammation, with promising results.
- A review of clinical evidence for the use of bromelain as a treatment for osteoarthritis found that, based on its ability to relieve inflammation and reduce pain, bromelain may present an effective alternative to conventional treatments like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- A study comparing the effects of an enzyme supplement containing bromelain and diclofenac, a prescription anti-inflammatory drug, found that 90mg of bromelain three times per day was as effective as 50mg of diclofenac twice a day for relieving symptoms of knee osteoarthritis like joint swelling, tenderness and pain.
- Research indicates bromelain can be highly effective for treating sinusitis, a condition characterised by painful inflammation of the sinuses that is often associated with upper respiratory infections and allergies. In one study, bromelain resolved inflammation of nasal mucosa in 85% of adults with sinusitis, compared to 40% of those who received a placebo treatment.
- Studies have shown bromelain can help reduce post-operative swelling in surgical patients, helping to accelerate recovery. Athletes are also turning to bromelain to soothe sore, stiff muscles after exercise.
Why is reducing inflammation important in the treatment of Lyme disease?
For patients with chronic Lyme disease, inflammation can impact virtually every system in the body. Joint inflammation is particularly problematic for Lyme patients, and swollen and painful joints are among the most common and debilitating symptoms of Lyme disease.
For Lyme patients struggling with inflammation caused by their disease, bromelain may provide the relief they seek without the potentially damaging side effects that often accompany conventional treatment options.
Inflammation is said by some to be the root of all illness, and it certainly plays a role in Lyme disease. Lyme patients seeking to reduce inflammation may want to consider adding bromelain to their treatment plan.