Bromelain is a protein-digesting (proteolytic) enzyme complex found in the fruit and, in higher concentrations, in the stem of the pineapple (Ananas comosus). It is able to hydrolyze or break down a wide variety of protein types in a range of both acid and alkaline environments.
Originally isolated in the late 1800s, bromelain includes a family of sulfhydryl-containing enzymes found in pineapple. Besides proteolytic enzymes, bromelain contains other enzymes, including a peroxidase, acid phosphatase, several protease inhibitors and organically bound calcium. Bromelain plays a key role in digestion, and perhaps more importantly, its properties have prompted many practitioners to use it as an agent in wound healing and the prevention of illness and irritation for decades.
What Does Bromelain Do?
Put simply, bromelain breaks down protein. This has fairly obvious benefits when you consider that many of the foods you eat contain high protein foods and they have been thoroughly cooked, destroying most of the naturally occurring enzymes. As a proteolytic enzyme, it assists the body’s own digestive mechanisms in reducing very large, complex protein molecules into smaller peptide units or individual amino acids.
These smaller components are crucial for your own production of muscle, neurotransmitters, and other protein-based molecules that your body produces. Many of bromelain’s benefits; however, are actually based on absorption of the intact enzyme in the small intestine; it is this absorption makes possible its systemic effects such as reducing redness.
The Health Benefits of Bromelain
Traditionally, indigenous peoples from South America used pineapples to reduce digestive upset and reduce irritation, as well as other therapeutic uses. Here are some of the other amazing health benefits of this enzyme, as well as the studies that support the benefits of bromelain.
1. Swelling and Redness
Bromelain was approved in Europe as an effective remedy for swelling after surgery. Research shows that the bromelain enzyme may lower swelling, stop bruising, speed up healing time, and reduce discomfort in individuals following surgical procedures. One double-blind study of over 150 women who received episiotomies (surgical cuts in the perineum) during childbirth, found that women given large servings of oral bromelain over a period of 3 days, beginning 4 hours after delivery, showed a huge decrease in swelling, and discomfort. Ninety percent of women taking the supplement showed excellent recovery compared to 44% of women in the placebo group.
2. Sinus Discomfort
Bromelain is one of the most popular supplements in European countries such as Germany, where it is commonly used for sinus discomfort. Some research suggests that bromelain was effective at reducing discomfort and swelling.
3. Topical Applications for Burns
Due to its beneficial properties, bromelain is currently being studied for topical applications for burns. Recent lab studies on animals show that bromelain helps slough off dead tissue from third-degree burns. Other studies show its effective topical use in people with second- and third-degree burns.
4. Insect Bites and Stings
Bromelain may be applied topically to lower swelling and reduce discomfort associated with insect bites and stings.
5. Reduced Swelling After Sports Injuries
Studies show that bromelain may speed up healing time after a physical or sports injury. Taking it has been linked to reduced swelling related to sprains, strains, bruises, and other minor muscle injuries.
Bromelain may also help relieve mild discomfort related to osteoarthritis. In fact, it is a common ingredient in most natural supplements for sore joints and muscles.[7, 8]
7. Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids
This enzyme has been used in alternative medicine to promote cardiovascular health, varicose veins and hemorrhoids and other conditions of the veins.
There are several studies that suggest bromelain may help reduce coughing and lessen mucus related to sinusitis, as well as reduce the swelling and redness that accompany hay fever.[9, 10] The German Commission E approved the bromelain enzyme for aiding imbalances of the ear, nose, and throat that occur after surgery. It is also approved for reducing general sinus infection swelling.
9. Indigestion and Heartburn
Because of its protease capacities, this enzyme may reduce indigestion and heartburn. Studies show that it is particularly effective when used in combination with other enzymes like amylase (which digests carbohydrates) and lipase (which digests fat). Other studies show its ability to reduce bloating and gas.
10. Helps Balance the Acidity of the Stomach
Research shows that Bromelain can help balance the acidity of the stomach, as well as the alkalinity of the small intestine. A recent lab study confirms that this enzyme may help ease harmful organism related diarrhea. Another study suggests that it may be an up-and-coming natural remedy for IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
11. May Boost Overall Immune Strength
Bromelain may boost overall immune strength in the human body. One German clinical study of 16 breast cancer patients found that oral supplementation of bromelain could help stimulate immune function in women. Other studies suggest that it may also boost the amount of certain immune system, hormones, called cytokines (made in our white blood cells). Recent studies suggest that bromelain may help relieve some of the standard cancer side effects related to lowered immunity.
12. May Stop Blood Platelets From Clotting
Several laboratory (in vitro) and human (in vivo) studies suggest that bromelain may stop blood platelets from forming clots inside the body, which can minimize the impacts of severe heart and brain conditions in which clotting can be a concern. This is exciting research in the direction of its effects on heart and brain health.
13. Bronchitis, Pneumonia and Urinary Tract Infections
Animal studies suggest that bromelain possesses action against harmful organisms, and it may be effective for ailments resulting from their presence. Used in conjunction with antibiotics, bromelain and enzyme therapy worked wonders in cases related to lung and urinary health.
Understanding the Units of Measurement for Bromelain on a supplement label
Bromelain is measured in several different ways including PU (Papain Units), gelatin digesting units (GDU/gram), milk clotting units (MCU), Rorer units (RU), Bromelain Tyrosine Units (BTU/ gram), Casein Digestion Units (CDU/mg) or FIP units (amount that hydrolyzes casein). The units tell you the activity level of the enzyme; the higher the number, the more active it is.
The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) creates the standard measurements for supplements. These are published in the USP’s Foods Chemical Codex (FCC), an internationally accepted compendium of standards for the quality of food ingredients, supplements, and additives. One PU is how much of the papain enzyme that frees up one mcg of tyrosine per hour during the test.
Bromelain can be standardized on supplement labels as gelatin digesting units (GDU/gram), milk clotting units (MCU), Rorer units (RU), Bromelain Tyrosine Units (BTU/ gram), Casein Digestion Units (CDU/mg) or FIP units.
Example: Bromelain at 1000 GDU/g would be equal to a 15,000,000 FCC PU/g potency.
Where Can I Find The Best Source of Bromelain?
VeganZyme® is the most advanced full-spectrum systemic and digestive enzyme formula in the world and is free from fillers and toxic compounds. This formula contains digestive enzymes, which help digest fats (lipids), sugars, proteins, carbohydrates, gluten, fruits and vegetables, cereals, legumes, bran, nuts and seeds, soy, dairy, and all other food sources.
VeganZyme contains a 100% vegan form of Bromelain extracted from the pineapple (Ananas comosus). It comes from all vegetarian, non-GMO sources, is kosher certified, gluten free, contains no animal product and is completely suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
VeganZyme may also be used as a systemic enzyme blend to break down excess mucus, fibrin, various toxins, allergens, as well as excess clotting factors throughout your body.
- Roxas M. “The Role of Enzyme Supplementation in Digestive Disorders.” Altern Med Rev. 2008;13(4),307-14.
- Taussig SJ, Batkin S. “Bromelain, the enzyme complex of pineapple (Ananas comosus) and its clinical application. An update.” J Ethnopharmacol. 1988;22(2),191-203.
- Zatuchni GI, Colombi DJ. “Bromelains therapy for the prevention of episiotomy pain.” Obstet Gynecol. 1967;29(2),275-8.
- Guo R, et al. “Herbal medicines for the treatment of rhinosinusitis: a systematic review.” Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006;135(4),496-506.
- Pavan R, et al. “Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain: A Review.” Biotechnol Res Int. 2012; 2012,976203.
- Kerkhoffs GM, et al. “A double blind, randomised, parallel group study on the efficacy and safety of treating acute lateral ankle sprain with oral hydrolytic enzymes.” Br J Sports Med. 2004;38(4),431-5.
- Brien S, et al. “Bromelain as an adjunctive treatment for moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study.” QJM. 2006;99(12),841-50.
- Brien S, et al. “Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2004;1(3),251-257.
- Ryan RE. “A double-blind clinical evaluation of bromelains in the treatment of acute sinusitis.” Headache. 1967;7:13-17.
- Rathnavelu V, et al. “Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications.” Biomed Rep. 2016;5(3),283–288.
- Onken JE, et al. “Bromelain treatment decreases secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by colon biopsies in vitro.” Clinical Immunology. 2008;126(3),345–352.
- Chandler DS, Mynott TL. “Bromelain protects piglets from diarrhoea caused by oral challenge with K88 positive enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli.” Gut. 1998;43(2),196-202.
- Eckert K, et al. “Effects of oral bromelain administration on the impaired immunocytotoxicity of mononuclear cells from mammary tumor patients.” Oncol Rep. 1999;6(6),1191-9.
- Desser L, et al. “Cytokine synthesis in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells after oral administration of polyenzyme preparations.” Oncology. 1993;50(6),403-7.
- Desser L, Het al. “Oral therapy with proteolytic enzymes decreases excessive TGF-beta levels in human blood.” Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2001;47 Suppl,S10-5.
- “Food Chemicals Codex.” Volumes 2-3. National Academies Press. 1981.
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