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Bromelain

Illustration

Bromelain, derived from the pineapple plant, is one of a group of proteolytic enzymes (enzymes capable of digesting protein).

Where is it found?

Bromelain is found mostly in the stems of pineapples and is available as a dietary supplement.

Bromelain has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
3Stars

Sinusitis

Wound healing

2Stars

Post-surgical healing

Prostatitis (NBP, PD)

Sprains and strains

Tendinitis

Urinary tract infection

1Star

Angina

Asthma

Low back pain

Rheumatoid arthritis

Thrombophlebitis

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Who is likely to be deficient?

Since bromelain is not essential, deficiencies of this plant-based enzyme do not exist.

How much is usually taken?

Assessing the right amount of bromelain to take is complicated. Most bromelain research was conducted years ago, when amounts used were listed in units of activity that no longer exist. These old units do not precisely convert to new ones. Today, bromelain is measured in MCUs (milk clotting units) or GDUs (gelatin dissolving units). One GDU equals approximately 1.5 MCU. Strong products contain at least 2,000 MCU (1,200–1,333 GDU) per gram (1,000 mg). A supplement containing 500 mg labeled “2,000 MCU per gram” would have 1,000 MCU of activity. Some doctors recommend as much as 3,000 MCU taken three times per day for several days, followed by 2,000 MCU three times per day.1 Much of the research uses smaller amounts, more like the equivalent of approximately 500 MCU taken four times per day. However, most of the bromelain used in the studies was enteric-coated in order to prevent it from being destroyed by gastric juice. It is likely, therefore, that currently available bromelain preparations (which typically are not enteric-coated) are of lower potency than the bromelain used in most studies.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Bromelain is generally safe and free of side effects when taken in moderate amounts. However, one preliminary report indicates increased heart rate with the use of bromelain.2 In addition, some people are allergic to bromelain. One woman reportedly developed a hives and severe swelling after taking bromelain, even though she had tolerated bromelain on two other occasions previously.3 Because bromelain acts as a blood thinner and little is known about how bromelain interacts with blood-thinning drugs, people should avoid combining such drugs with bromelain in order to reduce the theoretical risk of excessive bleeding.

Are there any drug interactions?
Certain medicines may interact with bromelain. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.

References:

1. Gaby AR. The story of bromelain. Nutr Healing May 1995:3, 4, 11.

2. Gutfreund AE, Taussig SJ, Morris AK. Effect of oral bromelain on blood pressure and heart rate of hypertensive patients. Hawaii Med J 1978;37:143–6.

3. Nettis E, Napoli G, Ferrannini A, Tursi A. IgE-mediated allergy to bromelain. Allergy 2001;56:257–8.

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