The Health Benefits of Bromelain

Dr. Group
by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Last Updated on
Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme that is found in pineapples.

Bromelain is a protein-digesting (proteolytic) enzyme complex that’s found in pineapple (Ananas comosus). The enzyme is present both in the fruit itself and in higher concentrations in the stem. It can hydrolyze or break down a variety of types of protein in both acid and alkaline environments.

Originally isolated in the late 1800s, bromelain includes a family of sulfhydryl-containing enzymes found in pineapple. Besides proteolytic enzymes, bromelain contains other enzymes, including a peroxidase, acid phosphatase, several protease inhibitors and organically bound calcium.[1] Bromelain plays a key role in digestion, and perhaps more importantly, its properties have prompted many practitioners to use it as an agent in wound healing and the prevention of illness and irritation for decades.

What Does Bromelain Do?

The proteolytic enzymes in bromelain break down protein. This has fairly obvious benefits when you consider that most high-protein foods have been thoroughly cooked, which destroys most of the naturally occurring enzymes. Bromelain assists the body's digestive mechanisms in reducing very large, complex protein molecules into smaller peptide units or individual amino acids. These smaller peptide units are crucial for your body’s production of muscle tissue, neurotransmitters, and other protein-based molecules.

Many of the enzyme’s benefits, however, come into play when it is absorbed in the small intestine; this absorption makes possible its systemic effects such as reducing redness, swelling, and irritation that can wreak havoc on the body’s overall health.

The Health Benefits of Bromelain

Traditionally, indigenous peoples from South America used pineapples to reduce digestive upset and reduce irritation, as well as other therapeutic uses.[2] Here are some of the other amazing health benefits of this enzyme, as well as the studies that support the benefits of bromelain.

1. Reduces Swelling and Redness

Bromelain was approved in Europe as an effective remedy for swelling after surgery. Research shows that the bromelain enzyme may lower swelling, stop bruising, speed up healing time, and reduce discomfort following surgical procedures. One double-blind study of over 150 women who received episiotomies (surgical cuts in the perineum) during childbirth, found that women given large servings of oral bromelain over a period of three days, beginning four hours after delivery, showed a huge decrease in swelling, and discomfort.[3] Ninety percent of women taking the supplement showed excellent recovery compared to 44% of women in the placebo group.

2. Eases Sinus Discomfort

Bromelain is one of the most popular supplements in European countries such as Germany, where it is commonly used for sinus discomfort. Some research suggests that bromelain is effective at reducing discomfort and swelling.[4]

3. Assists Burn and Wound Recovery

Due to its beneficial properties, bromelain has long been used on wounds, and it’s being studied for topical applications for burns, injuries, and gunshot wounds. Studies in humans and animals show that bromelain helps slough off dead tissue from wounds and burns.[5] Other studies show it promotes healing when applied topically to second- and third-degree burns.[5]

4. Helps Insect Bites and Stings

Bromelain may be applied topically to reduce swelling and discomfort associated with itchy insect bites and stings. Traditionally, a pineapple was used to help with insect bites as well as snake venom in South America, and there are patents associated for its use for these purposes.

5. Assists After Sports Injuries

Studies show that bromelain may speed up healing time after a physical or sports injury. Taking it has been linked to reduced swelling from sprains, strains, bruises, and other minor muscle injuries.[6]

6. Helps Relieve Bone Discomfort

Bromelain may also help relieve occasional bone and joint discomfort. In fact, it is a common ingredient in most natural supplements for sore joints and muscles.[7, 8]

7. Soothes Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids

Because it has positive effects on swelling, irritation, and wound healing, bromelain is used in alternative medicine to soothe hemorrhoids and other conditions of the veins.

8. Digests Mucus in Lungs and Nose

Several studies suggest that bromelain may help reduce coughing and lessen mucus related to sinusitis, as well as reduce the swelling and redness that accompany hay fever.[9, 10] The German Commission E approved the bromelain enzyme for aiding imbalances of the ear, nose, and throat that occur after surgery, and for reducing general sinus infection swelling.

9. Normalizes Indigestion and Heartburn

Because of its protease capacities, this enzyme may normalize digestive processes, particularly helping with indigestion and heartburn. Studies show that it is particularly effective when used in combination with other enzymes like amylase (which digests carbohydrates) and lipase (which digests fat). Other studies show bromelain has reduced bloating and gas.[11]

10. Balances the Acidity of the Stomach

Research shows that bromelain can help balance the acidity of the stomach, as well as the alkalinity of the small intestine. A recent lab study confirms that this enzyme may help ease harmful organism related diarrhea.[12] Another study suggests that it may be an up-and-coming natural remedy for IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).[11]

11. Boosts Overall Immune Health

Bromelain may boost overall immune strength in the human body. One German clinical study found that oral supplementation of bromelain could help stimulate immune function in women.[13] Other studies suggest that commercial preparations with multiple proteolytic and non-proteolytic enzymes may boost the amount of certain immune system hormones, called cytokines (made in white blood cells).[14] Recent studies suggest that bromelain may help relieve some of the standard cancer side effects related to lowered immunity.[15]

12. Keeps Blood Flowing Normally

Several laboratory (in vitro) and human (in vivo) studies suggest that bromelain may stop blood platelets from forming clots inside the body, which can minimize the impacts of severe heart and brain conditions in which clotting can be a problem.[10] This is exciting research on bromelain’s effects on heart and brain health.

13. Repels Harmful Organisms

A review of multiple studies suggest that bromelain possesses action against harmful organisms, and it may be effective for ailments resulting from their presence. Used in conjunction with antibiotics, bromelain and enzyme therapy worked wonders in cases related to lung and urinary health.[10]

Understanding the Units of Measurement for Bromelain

Bromelain is measured in several different ways including PU (Papain Units), gelatin digesting units (GDU/gram), milk clotting units (MCU), Rorer units (RU), Bromelain Tyrosine Units (BTU/ gram), Casein Digestion Units (CDU/mg) or FIP units (amount that hydrolyzes casein). The units tell you the activity level of the enzyme; the higher the number, the more active it is.

The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) creates the standard measurements for supplements. These are published in the USP’s Foods Chemical Codex (FCC), an internationally accepted compendium of standards for the quality of food ingredients, supplements, and additives. One PU is how much of the papain enzyme that frees up one mcg of tyrosine per hour during the test.[16]

Where Can I Find the Best Source of Bromelain?

VeganZyme® is an advanced full-spectrum systemic and digestive enzyme formula. Free of fillers and toxic compounds, it contains digestive enzymes, which help digest fats (lipids), sugars, proteins, carbohydrates, gluten, fruits and vegetables, cereals, legumes, bran, nuts and seeds, soy, dairy, and all other food sources.

VeganZyme contains a 100% vegan form of bromelain extracted from the pineapple (Ananas comosus). It comes from non-GMO sources, is kosher certified, gluten free, and completely suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

VeganZyme may also be used as a systemic enzyme blend to break down excess mucus, fibrin, various toxins, allergens, as well as excess clotting factors throughout your body.

References (16)
  1. Roxas M. "The Role of Enzyme Supplementation in Digestive Disorders." Altern Med Rev. 2008;13(4),307-14.
  2. Taussig SJ, Batkin S. "Bromelain, the enzyme complex of pineapple (Ananas comosus) and its clinical application. An update." J Ethnopharmacol. 1988;22(2),191-203.
  3. Zatuchni GI, Colombi DJ. "Bromelains therapy for the prevention of episiotomy pain." Obstet Gynecol. 1967;29(2),275-8.
  4. Guo R, et al. "Herbal medicines for the treatment of rhinosinusitis: a systematic review." Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006;135(4),496-506.
  5. Pavan R, et al. "Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain: A Review." Biotechnol Res Int. 2012; 2012,976203.
  6. Kerkhoffs GM, et al. "A double blind, randomised, parallel group study on the efficacy and safety of treating acute lateral ankle sprain with oral hydrolytic enzymes." Br J Sports Med. 2004;38(4),431-5.
  7. Brien S, et al. "Bromelain as an adjunctive treatment for moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study." QJM. 2006;99(12),841-50.
  8. Brien S, et al. "Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2004;1(3),251-257.
  9. Ryan RE. "A double-blind clinical evaluation of bromelains in the treatment of acute sinusitis." Headache. 1967;7:13-17.
  10. Rathnavelu V, et al. "Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications." Biomed Rep. 2016;5(3),283–288.
  11. Onken JE, et al. "Bromelain treatment decreases secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by colon biopsies in vitro." Clinical Immunology. 2008;126(3),345–352.
  12. Chandler DS, Mynott TL. "Bromelain protects piglets from diarrhoea caused by oral challenge with K88 positive enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli." Gut. 1998;43(2),196-202.
  13. Eckert K, et al. "Effects of oral bromelain administration on the impaired immunocytotoxicity of mononuclear cells from mammary tumor patients." Oncol Rep. 1999;6(6),1191-9.
  14. Desser L, et al. "Cytokine synthesis in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells after oral administration of polyenzyme preparations." Oncology. 1993;50(6),403-7.
  15. Desser L, Het al. "Oral therapy with proteolytic enzymes decreases excessive TGF-beta levels in human blood." Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2001;47 Suppl,S10-5.
  16. "Food Chemicals Codex." Volumes 2-3. National Academies Press. 1981.

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