| Food & Diet Health Pain and Inflammation

Top 5 Benefits Of Bromelain

By Sara Novak

You know that pineapple is delicious. It’s sweet, tart, and tropical. But did you know that pineapple is also good for digestion? Yes, it’s true. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which can be beneficial for a number of reasons, but it’s especially known for helping the body to better break down foods. Like papain, it’s sourced from a tropical fruit with a host of health benefits. And if you’re lacking the beneficial enzymes needed for good digestive health (and many of us are), bromelain might be just the thing for you.

Table Of Contents:

How Digestion Works:

How Digestion Works

First, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and discuss digestion. It’s a huge intricate process and it’s also fascinating. Digestion is one of the most important systems in the body. It’s about WAY more than just how the body breaks down food, it’s about how the system works as a whole. Your digestion impacts your immune and mental health as well as your physical appearance. So how does it happen? Let’s take a closer look. 

You smell that steak sizzling on the grill and you start salivating. This is your body swinging into digestive action. Saliva helps to break down food  and you can produce around two pints of the stuff each day! That’s a lot of spit. Food travels through the esophagus and is propelled into the stomach through a process called peristalsis. Once in your stomach, your steak is further broken down through a combination of stomach acid called gastric acid and digestive enzymes, producing a paste called chyme. Waves of stomach contractions push the paste into the small intestine and then the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder, which all produce digestive enzymes to further break foods down. As water is absorbed in the large intestine, the food is separated into energy and waste and much of it is pushed into the colon to produce a bowel movement.

How Enzymes Help With Digestion

How Enzymes Help

As you can see from above, digestion is a complicated process and digestive enzymes play a paramount role throughout. If you don’t have enough digestive enzymes it can create problems with your digestion. Digestive enzymes help to fully break down foods so that their nutrients are absorbed into the body’s cells and tissues. If you don’t have ample digestive enzymes you could suffer from malabsorption of nutrients as well as cramping, constipation, nutrient deficiencies, bloating, and the list goes on. 

Read MoreA Guide To Digestive Enzymes

Why We Don’t Get Enough Enzymes

Why We Don't Get enough enzymes

Digestive enzymes can also be found in many of the foods we eat, but unfortunately, many of us don’t eat enough of the raw, whole foods that we need to get our fill. The standard American diet does not contain enough fruits to get your daily dose. Often times, many of our fruits and vegetables are grown in soil that is depleted of the nutrients we need because of monoculture agricultural processes, when the soil is often overused. 

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What Is Bromelain?:

What Is Bromelain

Bromelain is an enzyme extracted from the stem, fruit, and juice of pineapples. It’s available in a pill for oral use but also in a topical cream. Bromelain is actually a group of enzymes, that according to the NIH’s National Center for Integrative and Complementary Health, has been used for centuries in Central and South America to treat digestive issues. According to NIH, “bromelain is promoted as a dietary supplement for reducing pain and swelling, especially of the nose and sinuses, gums, and other body parts after surgery or injury. Topical bromelain is promoted for burns,” though the organization does not endorse its use.

Top 5 Benefits Of Bromelain:

We know that bromelain has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and it makes sense. Research has shown that the enzyme has a host of benefits that make it a good addition to your repertoire. 

1. Digestion

Digestion

As mentioned above, when the body does not have enough digestive enzymes to properly break up foods it can create problems with nutrient absorption and bloating, etc. Some research has shown that the addition of enzymes can help to improve digestion. A study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology found that enzymes show promise for those who have underlying conditions, like cystic fibrosis, which make it impossible to produce enough pancreatic enzymes. Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a digestive enzyme in kiwi helped rats break down meat proteins. There still isn’t enough research to definitively say that enzymes help with digestion but it makes sense. When foods get to the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine, amping up the enzymes can move the process along. You can also up your consumption of enzymes by enjoying whole foods like papaya, pineapple, kiwi, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut as part of a healthy diet.

2. Osteoarthritis 

Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It most commonly happens in the hands, finger, knees, hips, and spine. It happens as you age and it’s more common in women than in men. According to the Mayo Clinic, “osteoarthritis has often been referred to as a wear and tear disease. But besides the breakdown of cartilage, osteoarthritis affects the entire joint. It causes changes in the bone and deterioration of the connective tissues that holds the joint together and attaches muscle to bone. It also causes inflammation of the joint lining.” Some research has shown that bromelain may be effective for treating osteoarthritis. A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that "the currently available data does indicate the potential of bromelain in treating osteoarthritis.” Another study, published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology found that taking a bromelain supplement for 16 weeks reduced symptoms in women with knee osteoarthritis. The study authors write that “treatment with bromelain-containing enzyme preparation for 3-4 weeks is effective for treatment of knee osteoarthritis.” Finally, a study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that bromelain has also been shown to reduce knee pain. The study authors write that bromelain may be effective at reducing mild knee pain in those who are otherwise healthy. 

Read MoreCan Turmeric Relieve Arthritis, Joint Pain & Inflammation?

3. Asthma 

Asthma

Asthma is a condition that happens when the body’s airways swell and fill with mucus. It can cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest pains, and in some cases, very serious asthma attacks. Some research has shown that bromelain may help to reduce many of the symptoms. A study published in the journal Biotechnology Research International found that “in recent research, bromelain was found to attenuate development of allergic airway disease, while altering certain lymphocyte populations. From this reduction in allergic airway disease outcomes it was suggested that bromelain may have similar effects in the treatment of human asthma and hypersensitivity disorders.” Another study published in the journal Cellular Immunology found that “bromelain treatment has been shown to inhibit and modulate critical components of the allergic airway disease response” in rat models. While there’s much more research to be done on the subject, bromelain does show some promise. 

4. Wound Healing And Burns

Wound Healing

If you’ve ever had a wound that just wouldn’t heal, bromelain might be just the thing for you. Sometimes blisters, burns, cuts, and scraps end up on parts of the body that you have to constantly use like your hands and feet, which makes it harder for them to heal. There’s some good research to suggest that bromelain may be effective for helping them heal faster. A study published in the Journal of Dentistry of Tehran University of Medical Sciences found that bromelain taken orally may reduce pain at the site of a wound and it may quicken the healing process. A study published in the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association found that “in Europe it is approved for oral and topical use, mainly for surgical wounds, inflammation due to trauma and surgery, and debridement of deep burns. Literature suggests a promising role of bromelain in surgical care.” 

5. Anti-Cancer

Anti-Cancer

There’s also some research that shows that bromelain may also have some anti-cancer agents. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, "indicates an increase in apoptosis-related cell death in breast cancer cells with increasing concentrations of bromelain.” While the research is still in its infancy, early animal models suggest its anti-cancer potential. Another study published in the journal Cancer Letters found that “traditional and anecdotal clinical evidence suggest that bromelain could be an effective anti-cancer therapeutic agent.” This suggests that further research may be warranted for this use of bromelain. 

The problem with todays diet is that we dont get enough of the enzymes we need from the foods we eat because those foods are heavily processed and often cooked down so much that it kills off the ever important enzymes needed to help our body absorb nutrients. Part of the reason that legumes are so hard for the body to digest is because we lack the enzymes needed to break them down. Many of the food intolerances that we blame on allergies are really the result of a lack of necessary digestive enzymes.

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