Bromelain Health Benefits
Bromelain health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties and possible benefit in treatment of Peyronie’s disease or a curve in the penis. Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes that digest proteins and is found in the stem and juice of pineapple (Ananas comosus), a tropical fruit native to South America.
For centuries, native peoples used pineapple to treat a variety of ailments, from sore throats to inflammation, digestive problems, and seasickness. In the late 1800s, bromelain was first isolated from the pineapple plant. Later, scientists identified it as the ingredient likely responsible for these and other bromelain health benefits. This included an ability to relieve a condition called Peyronie’s disease.
Bromelain and Peyronie’s Disease
More than 1 percent of men ages 45 to 60 have Peyronie’s disease, a condition in which a lump or accumulation of plaque causes a severe curve in the erect penis. The bend or curve in the penis is believed to occur because the enzymes available in the body to breakdown such abnormal tissue tend to decline with age. In a small percentage of men this lack of enzymes can lead to Peyronie’s disease. Peyronie’s disease can also be one of the side effects of treatments for prostate cancer.
Currently there is no cure for Peyronie’s disease, a condition that can cause immense pain during erection and thus make sexual activity impossible. The three types of surgical procedures available to treat Peyronie’s disease have varying success rates. These surgeries also can increase the risk of a man experiencing erectile dysfunction or additional bend or curve in the penis.
Therefore the possibility of bromelain health benefits to include management of Peyronie’s disease is compelling. Bromelain may be a natural remedy for Peyronie’s disease because of its ability to stimulate an enzyme called collagenase. This enzyme breaks down collagen, which is a main component in scar tissue involved in Peyronie’s disease. Bromelain helps by dissolving the peptide bonds that allow the proteins to stay together.
No studies have shown bromelain to be effective in Peyronie’s disease treatment. However, at least one animal study has suggested relief is possible because bromelain promoted secretion of collagenase. (Werb) Given the lack of effective nonsurgical ways to manage Peyronie’s disease, bromelain is worth trying because of its protein-digesting abilities.
Other Bromelain Health Benefits
Among bromelain health benefits is an ability to fight inflammation. Bromelain is especially effective in managing inflammation associated with infection and injuries, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM). One reason bromelain is effective against inflammation is that it reduces the accumulation of factors called kinins and prostaglandins, which promote inflammation. If you are used to taking anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, diclofenac (Voltaren), and naproxen for inflammation and pain related to arthritis, some studies suggest bromelain can offer relief, although results are mixed. (Klein; UMM)
Because bromelain health benefits include an ability to break down proteins, it can help relieve stomach distress and indigestion. Bromelain can be more effective for gastrointestinal problems when it is combined with other ingredients, as demonstrated in an Italian study. More than 50 people treated with sodium bicarbonate, bromelain, sodium alginate, and essential oils experienced significant relief from symptoms of indigestion. (Pellicano)
Bromelain may also be effective in reducing symptoms associated with respiratory conditions that involve inflammation, such as bronchitis and sinus infections. Another one of bromelain health benefits is blood thinning. Therefore, it may be used to help people who have angina and thrombophlebitis, conditions characterized by blood clots in the veins, swelling, and pain. A 2011 review from the University of West London reported that bromelain could be used to manage acute thrombophlebitis and that it had heart-protective effects. (Ley) Bromelain also has an ability to improve circulation and prevent clotting, which it does by breaking down fibrin and the accumulation of plaque in the arteries.
How to Use Bromelain
Bromelain is available as tablets and capsules. No daily dose has been established, but the German Commission E recommends 80 to 320 mg taken in divided doses 2 to 3 times daily. Suggested doses include 500 mg daily in divided doses with meals for digestive problems, 500 mg 4 times daily on an empty stomach for injuries, and 500 to 2,000 mg daily in 2 divided doses for arthritis.
Side effects of bromelain tend to be mild and may include breathing difficulties, diarrhea, increased heart rate, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting. Before trying bromelain health benefits, talk to your healthcare provider. This is critical if you are taking anticoagulants or blood-thinning medications, if you have a bleeding disorder, high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, or a history of liver or kidney disease. Avoid bromelain if you are allergic to bee venom, carrots, celery, papaya, pineapple, rye, wheat, and pollen, as use of the supplement may trigger a negative reaction.
Klein G et al. Efficacy and tolerance of an oral enzyme combination in painful osteoarthritis of the hip. A double-blind, randomized study comparing oral enzymes with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Clin Exp Rheumatol 2006 Jan-Feb; 24(1): 25-30
Ley CM et al. A review of the use of bromelain in cardiovascular diseases. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao 2011 Jul; 9(7): 702-10
Pellicano R et al. Benefit of dietary integrators for treating functional dyspepsia: a prospective pilot study. Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol 2009 Sep; 55(3): 227-35
University of Maryland Medical Center:
Werb Z, Aggeler J. Protesases induces secretion of collagenase and plasminogen activator by fibroblasts. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1978; 75(4)