What is Bromelain?

Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme exclusively found Pineapples. Stem and fruit of fresh pineapple are used to extract it. Stem portion of pineapple is rich in Bromelain as compared to the fruit portion. Commercial sources come from Taiwan, Japan, and Hawaii. Bromelain is composed of sulphydryl proteolytic enzymes including several proteases as main constituent. Apart from the proteolytic enzymes, it also consist small amounts of non-proteolytic enzymes (acid phosphatase, peroxidase and cellulose), polypeptide protease inhibitors, and organically bound calcium.

Health Benefits of Bromelain

As an anti-inflammatory agent – Bromelain acts on the inflammatory mediators directly or indirectly and inhibits the enzyme thromboxane synthetase, which converts prostaglandin H2 into pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and thromboxanes. Therefore, it shows an anti-inflammatory effect in treatment of arthritis.

Bromelain in blood clotting – Bromelain stimulates the breakdown of fibrin which stimulates pro-inflammatory prostaglandins that are responsible for fluid retention and blood clot formation. Also, Bromelain promotes the conversion of plasminogen into plasmin resulting into increased fibrinolysis.  Anti-platelet aggregation and fibrinolytic property of Bromelain therefore makes its use in treating thrombophlebitis, a potentially dangerous condition due to blood clotting.

As a meat tenderizer – Apart from papain, Bromelain is also widely used as meat tenderizer. It is available in powdered form and is sprinkled or spread over meat either alone or along with marinade. Forking enhances Bromelain penetration into the meat and makes the meat tender and palatable. Some people also keep it for long hours to obtain mushy meat as desired. But you must remember one thing that such a meat tenderizing effect cannot be obtained from canned or cooked pineapples. Also because of this proteolytic effect of Bromelain, you must not use it in preparations involving jelly formation or gelatin as you would end up in a disaster outcome.

As a digestive aid – Bromelain includes the proteolytic enzymes and can penetrate easily into the molecules. Therefore, it can be used as a digestive aid in foods to aid the breakdown or large, complex molecules especially protein into smaller digestible ones.

Miscellaneous use of Bromelain:

  • Bromelain also treats respiratory congestion, rheumatoid arthritis and several other inflammatory conditions.
  • Bromelain reduces swelling, bruising, pain, and healing time of injuries.
  • Bromelain is also used in hay fever, removing the dead and damaged tissue after burn, preventing collection of water in lung, improving absorption of antibiotics, shortening labor, and helping the body to get rid of from the excess fat. But these need more evidence and some are being researched.
  • Bromelain also has an action of interfering with the growth of tumor cells and so it can be used in treatment of cancer.
  • Bromelain is also reported to show an anti-aging effect. It can cause a change in white blood cells and modify the immune system in a positive manner.

Probable uses of Bromelain

  • In treating sinusitis – Bromelain is reported to reduce the symptoms of sinusitis as observed in clinical trials. But the symptom of headache was not improved in the study. Bromelain
  • In musculoskeletal injuries – in one study, Bromelain showed curing of muscle wounds and haematomas on face, eyes, lips, ears, arms and chest. But other study showed no difference when Bromelain was given to patients with muscle soreness as an outcome of exercise. So, more research is required for this case.
  • In arthritis – clinical trials showed that Bromelain could treat osteo as well as rheumatoid arthritis. And also that it could improve the symptoms of stiffness and physical functions in those patients. Placebos as well as further clinical trials have now confirmed this fact.
  • In surgical procedures – the observation that Bromelain could help improve the swelling and oral pain seen after an oral surgery is done, requires more statistical reports and research.
  • As an antibacterial – Bromelain is shown to have an anti-diarrhoeal effect and it can reduce the intestinal bacterial secretions. But this is an animal-based observation and human trials are still not executed.
  • In cardiovascular disease – Bromelain is reported to inhibit or reduce platelet aggregation and therefore can reduce the severity of angina pectoris.
  • In ulcerative colitis – trials are going on to see whether patients with ulcerative colitis can obtain complete remission (90% recovery from bacterial process and infection) if given Bromelain supplementation.
  • In cystitis – human studies are also pointing towards a beneficial role of Bromelain in treating non-infectious cystitis.

Precautions while taking Bromelain

  • If you have a history of bleeding problem or any sort of haemostatic disorders than you must refrain from Bromelain because of its anti-platelet aggregation property.
  • As such Bromelain does not cause any serious problem for pregnant and breast-feeding women but there are no strong evidences to support it and hence, you must be cautious.
  • If you are suffering from any sort of heart disease then you must stay careful because Bromelain supplementation increases heart rate.
  • Stop using Bromelain during or before surgery to avoid blood loss.
  • If you are allergic to pineapple, wheat, celery, carrot or pollen then you must also be allergic to Bromelain. So, avoid using it in such a case.

Adverse effects – Bromelain has not shown any side effect or adverse reactions but its long term safety trials have not been assessed yet.  If you have any allergy problems then you might land up in some more, so do consult a physician in such a case. Bromelain can sometime cause diarrhea, stomach and intestinal discomfort in some people.

Interactions – practically not observed, but Bromelain might increase the bleeding tendency if given along with anti-coagulants, aspirin, and anti-platelet drugs.

Dose – Bromelain supplementations are available in the form of tablets, capsules or powders. Dose is not established but the supplements provide 125-500 milligram in a dose.