Bromelain is a protein-digesting group of proteolytic enzymes that can be found naturally only in pineapple. The enzyme is present both in the fruit itself and in the stem of the plant. Bromelain is responsible for breaking down various proteins. It's especially useful because it can function the same way in both acidic and alkaline (base) environments. In regions to which the pineapple is native or highly accessible, bromelain plays a key role in digestion, as well as healing wounds and treatings illness. The enzyme can also help soothe irritated bowels and reduce acidic stomach distress. As you will see, there are many health benefits of bromelain.

What Does Bromelain Do in the Body?

Bromelain is an anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling agent. These qualities make the enzyme helpful to painful "flare-ups" caused by auto-immune disorders. It also has fibrinolytic and antithrombotic properties, meaning it can help reduce the frequency and severity of blood clots, swelling, and edema. Bromelain also soothes and relaxes inflamed muscles and connective tissues - in fact, it is used as a meat tenderizer. Bromelain is especially good for strains, sprains, and tears in ligaments, tendons, and muscles.


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What Foods Contain Bromelain?

Pineapple is the only natural source of bromelain. In South America, pineapples were served with heavy meals to help ease digestive upsets. Eating fresh pineapple and drinking fresh pineapple juice will give you the benefits of bromelain. Unfortunately, fresh pineapple is not always available in all parts of the world. You can take bromelain supplements, but always check with your doctor before supplementing your diet.


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May Help Prevent Cancer

Recent scientific studies have provided evidence that bromelain can halt the development of lung metastasis. This has led scientists to believe bromelain could be part of a holistic approach to treating cancer and that it might also contain one of the chemical keys to curing the disease. Bromelain also has properties that prevent irregular cell growth and the development of tumors. The enzyme can induce the production of distinct cytokines, making it especially effective against breast and lung cancers. Research suggests it could serve as a therapeutic agent for malignant lung cancers.


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Treats Digestive Disorders

Bromelain is especially good for digestion because it helps break down proteins in your gut. Many people who follow a high-protein eating plan have found they are better able to absorb the vital macronutrient after adding pineapple to their diets. Bromelain also helps your body absorb more nutrients from your food and even improves the efforts of certain medications. Bromelain can reduce colonic inflammation and digestive ulcers by soothing inflamed tissue and helping heal wounds. It can even reduce the inflammatory cytokines in your gut that cause digestive distress. People with inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, constipation and diarrhea, Crohn's disease, and even peptic ulcers, may find relief from bromelain.


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Assists Recovery from Surgical Procedures

The anti-inflammatory nature of bromelain makes it a natural alternative to over-the-counter painkillers, and can significantly improve recovery from surgical procedures or injuries. Bromelain may ease discomfort from oral surgery, as well as pain. These same properties can also help ward off infection, reducing the risk of post-operative complications. If you have an upcoming procedure, you may choose to consult with your doctor about incorporating pineapple or pineapple juice into your post-surgery eating plan.


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Treats Allergies and Asthma

Scientific studies on mice with asthma have concluded that bromelain's anti-inflammatory properties can also ease asthmatic symptoms. It's theorized that bromelain reduces allergic sensitivity and other inflammatory responses that affect the airways. These conclusions indicate bromelain can help with allergies and allergic reactions in general, by calming an overactive immune system. The soothing effects of bromelain can help your body process "foreign" allergens naturally, reducing the need for traditional medication. However, consult with a doctor before substituting pineapple and bromelain for your prescribed allergy medication regimen.


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Treats Sinus Infections

The positive effects of bromelain on allergies and asthma can also apply to treat sinus infections (Rhinosinusitis). Several studies suggest that bromelain reduces coughing and lessens mucus related to sinusitis. The enzyme may also reduce the swelling and redness that accompany hay fever. In Germany, bromelain is already a popular remedy for sinus swelling.


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Relieves Joint Pain

Studies show that bromelain may speed up healing time after a physical or sports injury. Its anti-inflammatory properties are linked to reduced swelling from sprains, strains, bruises, and other minor muscle injuries.  In fact, bromelain is one of the top ingredients in natural joint pain remedies, and the enzyme can also soften stiff connective tissue.


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May Aid in Weight Loss

While weight loss is ultimately achieved by reducing your caloric intake, adding pineapple to your diet may make it easier to reach your goals. Bromelain's ability to improve digestion makes it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients it needs and break down protein in your food. Protein has a high level of satiety - that is, you can eat a regular portion of it and feel full for a longer time than eating simple carbohydrates or processed food. When your digestive system is regulated and running smoothly, you're better able to get the nutrients you need from your food. Bromelain may also help reduce the accumulation of triglycerides in your bloodstream and inhibit the growth of fat cells.


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Possible Side Effects of Bromelain

While bromelain is a natural ingredient, there may still be risks associated with it. Some conditions make it unhealthy to take this enzyme. It inhibits blood clots, so if you're on blood-thinning medications, stay from bromelain. It also isn't advisable to take bromelain immediately following surgery, as the anti-inflammatory properties can counteract anti-coagulation medications. Ask your doctor when it's safe to consume bromelain. Some people may experience side effects of bromelain in the gut, namely nausea, changes in bowel movements, and increased gas. Additionally, while bromelain allergies are rare, they do exist. If you notice a rash or swelling after eating pineapple or bromelain supplements, consult your physician.


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