Alex Caspero, MA, RD, introduces us to bromelain, the pineapple enzyme, and, details its benefits for digestion, skin, and more.
Struggling with digestive issues or simply looking to give your system a boost? Enter: bromelain, an enzyme that does wonders for your gut, skin, and bones. If you’re searching for a digestion miracle worker, look no further. Found in pineapples, this enzyme works to digest protein (which can often be difficult for your system to process). People with a medical condition called pancreatic insufficiency may be prescribed bromelain as part of a combination of digestive enzymes because their pancreas does not make enough on its own. Research has also shown that high doses of bromelain may help improve indigestion, circulation, and cardiovascular health. Plus, it boasts some serious anti-inflammatory properties.Read on to learn about bromelain, what bromelain is good for, and some bromelain benefits to know about.
What Is Bromelain?
First thing’s first: What is bromelain? Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme derived from the pineapple plant. While our body naturally produces digestive enzymes to help break down foods, for aided digestion, you can get them from supplemental sources. Historically, it’s been used to treat many medical ailments. In fact, native people in Central and South America used to apply pineapple dressings to wounds and skin injuries to reduce inflammation and drank pineapple juice to ease stomach aches and indigestion. Because of its health benefits, bromelain is often found in digestive supplements (including HUM’s Flatter Me).
So… is eating a little pineapple every day enough to get your bromelain fix? Even though there are small amounts of bromelain in fresh pineapple and pineapple juice, it’s likely not a large enough dose for it to have benefits shown in clinical studies. Why? The enzyme is mostly concentrated in the parts you don’t eat, particularly the stem. For that reason, it’s much easier to take a supplement that contains bromelain to experience its benefits.
5 Bromelain Benefits
What is bromelain good for? Here are the key benefits of this enzyme all-star.
1. Bromelain Improves Digestion
If you’re struggling with indigestion, bromelain can help. Here’s how it works: Our bodies make enzymes, which then help to break down food and improve our digestion of macronutrients. Some help break down fat, others break down carbs, and others break down protein. However, several factors can decrease natural levels of digestive enzymes, such as:
- Lifestyle considerations
These factors can lead to a number of digestive imbalances, including bloating, gas, and other GI disturbances.
Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme (called proteases) which means it’s especially beneficial to take alongside any meal that includes meat or plant-based protein sources to aid digestion and nutrient absorption. And if you’re struggling with indigestion (specifically diarrhea), in vitro research has found that in studies of cells, bromelain can work to degrade certain intestinal pathogens that can cause diarrhea.
2. Bromelain Brightens Skin
This potent pineapple enzyme is often used topically (read: applied onto your skin instead of ingested) as an exfoliant to remove dead skin and to help calm irritated skin. It literally eats through the dead cells that can dull complexion to reveal fresh, new skin. Because bromelain benefits the complexion, many skincare products and treatments contain traces of pineapple.
Pro Tip: Take a DIY approach to yield bromelain’s skin-supporting benefits. (Just be cautious if you have sensitive skin.)
- Blend fresh pineapple in a blender until smooth and creamy.
- Remove one tablespoon of the puree. Rub all over your face and neck, avoiding eye area.
- Wait five minutes then remove with cool water. Take care to not get juice in your eyes.
- Moisturize to lock hydration in
3. Bromelain Supports Inflammatory-Related Health Concerns
Bromelain’s anti-inflammatory properties have been studied for a variety of health issues that arise from inflammation in the body, including joint stiffness and cardiovascular health. In a review analysis of osteoarthritis patients, many patients saw positive clinical effects, especially in reducing swelling, stiffness, and pain with doses of 80 mg to almost 2000 mg per day.
4. Bromelain Helps with Cardiovascular Health
Research has shown the enzyme may support cardiovascular health benefits. Specifically, high doses of supplemental bromelain has been shown to be an effective treatment against cardiovascular diseases, as it inhibits blood platelet aggregation.
5. Bromelain May Promote Faster Recovery
Studies have found that, when administered before surgery, bromelain can reduce the average number of days for complete disappearance of pain and post-surgery inflammation. Small trials have indicated that bromelain might be effective in reducing swelling, bruising, and pain in women having an episiotomy.
Bromelain Side Effects
While bromelain benefits include better digestion, glowing skin, and relief from inflammation, this powerful pineapple enzyme might not be for everyone.Most human studies report few bromelain side effects. However, one study showed an increased heart rate in those with high blood pressure who ingested a high dose. As always, consult your doctor before supplementing with bromelain.