Can Bromelain Ease Your Pain?

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found naturally in the juice and stems of pineapples. Available in dietary supplement form, it's considered a proteolytic enzyme (a class of enzymes thought to aid in the digestion of protein). Bromelain supplements are said to treat a variety of health conditions, especially those associated with chronic inflammation.

Uses for Bromelain

Bromelain is frequently touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems: allergiesanginaasthmabronchitischronic pain, muscle soreness, nasal swelling, osteoarthritissinusitis, and ulcerative colitis.

Bromelain is also said to stimulate digestion and improve heart health, as well as protect against some forms of cancer.

Health Benefits of Bromelain

Here's a look at several findings from the available research on the potential health benefits of bromelain:

1) Knee Pain

So far, studies testing bromelain's effects on knee pain have yielded mixed results.

In a small study published in QJM: Monthly Journal of the Association of Physicians in 2006, for example, bromelain supplements appeared to be no more effective than a placebo in alleviating symptoms such as pain and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. The 12-week-long study involved 47 patients with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis.

However, some research shows that bromelain may ease knee pain in people without arthritis. This research includes a small study published in Phytomedicine in 2002. In their analysis of data on 77 otherwise healthy adults with mild acute knee pain, the study's authors found that one month of treatment with bromelain significantly relieved symptoms and improved physical function.

2)  Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A mouse-based study published in Clinical Immunology in 2005 indicates that bromelain may aid in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. The study determined that bromelain may help suppress IBD-related inflammation.

3)  Asthma

Bromelain shows promise in the treatment of asthma, according to a preliminary study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in 2012.

In tests on mice, researchers observed that treatment with bromelain may inhibit asthma-related airway inflammation.

4)  Cancer

Some preliminary research suggests that bromelain may possess anti-cancer properties.

In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2012, for instance, tests on breast cancer cells demonstrated that bromelain may fight breast cancer by inducing apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).

Side Effects & Safety Concerns

Side effects commonly associated with bromelain include abnormal uterine bleeding, diarrhea, drowsiness, heavy menstruation, increased heart rate, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting.

In some individuals, bromelain may trigger allergic reactions and asthma symptoms, such as breathing problems, tightness in the throat, hives, rash, and itchy skin. People with allergies to pineapples should avoid bromelain. Allergic reactions may also occur in people with allergies to latex, carrot, celery, fennel, rye, wheat, papain, bee venom or grass, birch, or cypress pollens.

In addition, pregnant women and people with peptic ulcers should not use bromelain. Those with other digestive disorders should consult their physicians before taking bromelain supplements. 

Since bromelain may increase the risk of bleeding, it should also be avoided prior to undergoing surgery. Bromelain may be harmful to people with bleeding disorders and people taking blood-thinning (anticoagulant or anti-platelet) medication or supplements such as aspirin, warfarin, or ginkgo biloba. 

Tips for Using Bromelain Supplements

When used for as a digestive aid, bromelain is usually taken with meals. When used for inflammatory conditions, it's often taken between meals on an empty stomach in order to maximize absorption.

It should also be noted that avoiding or delaying standard care and self-treating a chronic condition with bromelain supplements may have serious consequences. Talk to your doctor if you're thinking of using bromelain for any condition.

Sources

Brien S, Lewith G, Walker A, Hicks SM, Middleton D. "Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2004 Dec;1(3):251-257.

Brien S1, Lewith G, Walker AF, Middleton R, Prescott P, Bundy R. "Bromelain as an adjunctive treatment for moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study." QJM. 2006 Dec;99(12):841-50.

Chobotova K1, Vernallis AB, Majid FA. "Bromelain's activity and potential as an anti-cancer agent: Current evidence and perspectives." Cancer Lett. 2010 Apr 28;290(2):148-56.

Dhandayuthapani S1, Perez HD, Paroulek A, Chinnakkannu P, Kandalam U, Jaffe M, Rathinavelu A. "Bromelain-induced apoptosis in GI-101A breast cancer cells." J Med Food. 2012 Apr;15(4):344-9.

Hale LP1, Greer PK, Trinh CT, Gottfried MR. "Treatment with oral bromelain decreases colonic inflammation in the IL-10-deficient murine model of inflammatory bowel disease." Clin Immunol. 2005 Aug;116(2):135-42.

Maurer HR1. "Bromelain: biochemistry, pharmacology and medical use." Cell Mol Life Sci. 2001 Aug;58(9):1234-45.

Pavan R1, Jain S, Shraddha, Kumar A. "Properties and therapeutic application of bromelain: a review." Biotechnol Res Int. 2012;2012:976203.

Pillai K1, Akhter J, Chua TC, Morris DL. "Anticancer property of bromelain with therapeutic potential in malignant peritoneal mesothelioma." Cancer Invest. 2013 May;31(4):241-50.

Secor ER Jr1, Shah SJ, Guernsey LA, Schramm CM, Thrall RS. "Bromelain limits airway inflammation in an ovalbumin-induced murine model of established asthma." Altern Ther Health Med. 2012 Sep-Oct;18(5):9-17.

Walker AF1, Bundy R, Hicks SM, Middleton RW. "Bromelain reduces mild acute knee pain and improves well-being in a dose-dependent fashion in an open study of otherwise healthy adults." Phytomedicine. 2002 Dec;9(8):681-6.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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