Bromelain

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Bromelain is an enzyme that is not only great for aiding the digestion of proteins but also has shown promising anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce pain and swelling caused by sprains, strains, and muscle injuries.


Other names for Bromelain

Ananas comosus, Bromelainum

Where to find Bromelain

Naturally found in pineapple, specifically the stem and juice. Commercial extracts are commonly taken from the stem, although the enzymes are also found in the leaves.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS


Why athletes use Bromelain

Athletes have found bromelain may help them combat inflamed muscles and joints, relieving aches and pains both after intense workouts and when recovering from an injury. In addition, it’s been shown to help improve digestion, especially of protein — part of the building blocks of muscle tissue — and increase nutrient absorption.

Ways that Bromelain can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • As a digestive enzyme, improve absorption of nutrients, especially protein
  • Reduce inflammation and pain in injured muscle tissue

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Bromelain deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Bromelain

Research indicates that Bromelain may be useful in the treatment of:

  • ALS
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Edema
  • Blood clots
  • Varicose veins
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Sinusitus

DISCUSSION

More about Bromelain

Bromelain, an enzyme extracted from pineapple, has been used successfully to aid digestion and as a safe, natural anti-inflammatory for deep muscle injuries and bruises. Its ability to aid digestion seems to be especially useful when large amounts of protein are consumed.

Anti-inflammatory/blood-thinning actions

Bromelain appears to reduce swelling by activating compounds in our bodies that break down “fibrin,” which is one of the compounds involved in clot and scar formation. It may help prevent blood platelets from sticking; in other words, it thins the blood, much like aspirin does. The result? It helps reduce swelling, which may promote healing of damaged tissue, especially muscle.

Bromelain has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the sinuses of people with both asthma and chronic bronchitis. And, its ability to reduce inflammation may relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been used to help heal bruising and in the treatment of varicose veins.

One of the most interesting studies on bromelain was performed with 146 boxers. Seventy-four boxers supplemented with bromelain — 58 of these boxers found that all signs of their bruising cleared within 4 days. In the rest of the supplemented group, bruising cleared up within 10 days. In contrast, those who were not in the bromelain group had to wait up to 14 days before their bruising went away. This could be significant for athletes who play contact sports.

Protein digestion

As you’re probably aware, protein is a main building block of muscle tissue. But for our bodies to use protein, it must be broken down into small enough particles to travel across cell membranes. This is where supplemental digestive enzymes, such as bromelain, can be used to aid the body’s own natural digestive processes. This natural enzyme works with our bodies’ own digestive enzymes to break down food. Given that proteins, especially from meats, require more “work” from the digestive system than carbohydrates before they are usable by our bodies, bromelain after a heavy protein meal may help release more usable proteins (amino acids) in the body.

In conclusion

Bromelain is available as an individual supplement but is often found as a part of a digestive enzyme complex. It is more commonly sold for its digestive-enzyme properties, as indigestion is much more common than deep muscle bruises and tissue injury in a culture that spends more time sitting and less time moving each year. For those of us who get up off the couch and get active, digestion should naturally improve. But when we take a fall off the mountain bike, we’ll have reason to reach for the bromelain again.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Between 80 and 320 mg of bromelain, depending on the amount of physical activity, taken 3 times daily, has shown positive results.

Don’t be surprised if products are listed in MCU’s (milk clotting units — measuring strength of the enzyme). Manufacturers will most likely tell you how this converts to milligrams or what “strength” one gram will contain. Note that while strength varies from product to product, one gram of bromelain will often contain the strength of 2,000 MCU. Between 500 and 3,000 MCU’s 3 times daily is the beneficial range. (Note that other companies use GDU — gelatin digesting unit — which is equal to 1.5 MCU.)

Timing

Most effective when taken immediately following meals.

Synergists of Bromelain

Turmeric and flavanoids may work synergistically with bromelain to help reduce inflammation.

Magnesium and NAC may help “activate” bromelain.


Safety of Bromelain

Bromelain is generally very safe, but it does act as a mild blood thinner. So, if you are on any blood-thinning medications, consult your physician before adding this or any other supplement to your regimen.

Drugs that interact with Bromelain

Contraindicated with any blood-thinner medications.

Toxicity of Bromelain

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Blonstein, J.L., “Control of Swelling in Boxing Injuries,” Practitioner 203.214 (1969) : 206.
  • Cirelli, M.G., “Treatment of Inflammation and Edema with Bromelain,” Delaware Med J 34.6 (1962) :159-67.
  • Cohen, A., and Goldman, J., “Bromelains Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis,” Pennsylvania Med J 67 (1964) : 27-30.
  • Heinicke, R., et al., “Effect of Bromelain (Ananase) on Human Platelet Aggregation,” Experientia 28 (1972) : 844-45.
  • Masson, M., “Bromelain in the Treatment of Blunt Injuries to the Musculoskeletal System. A Case Observation Study by an Orthopedic Surgeon in Private Practice,” Fortschr Med 113.19 (1995) : 303-6.
  • Mori, S., et al., “The Clinical Effect of Proteolytic Enzyme Containing Bromelain and Trypsin on Urinary Tract Infection Evaluated by Double Blind Method,” Acta Obstet Gynaecol Jpn 19 (1972) : 147-53.
  • Nieper, H.A., “Effect of Bromelain on Coronary Heart Disease and Angina Pectoris,” Acta Med Empirica 5 (1978) : 274-8.
  • Seligman, B., “Bromelain: An Anti-Inflammatory Agent,” Angiology 13 (1962) : 508-10.
  • Seltzer, A.P., “Minimizing Post-Operative Edema and Ecchymoses by the Use of an Oral Enzyme Preparation (Bromelain),” EENT Monthly 41 (1962) : 813-17.
  • Schafer, A., and Adelman, B., “Plasma Inhibition of Platelet Function and of Arachidonic Acid Metabolism,” J Clin Invest 75 (1985) : 456-61.
  • Taub, S.J., “The Use of Ananase in Sinusitis. A Study of 60 Patients,” EENT Monthly 45 (1966) : 96-8.
  • Taussig, S.J., and Batkin, S., “Bromelain, the Enzyme Complex of Pineapple (Ananas comosus) and its Clinical Application. An Update,” J Ethnopharmacol 22.2 (1988) : 191-203.