Go ahead and drink that piña colada or throw some pineapple on the grill!  Research has shown that a compound found in pineapple called bromelain can help alleviate pain related to chronic conditions. The extract is created using the stem of the pineapple, but the compound can be found in all fresh parts of the fruit, though usually not at high enough levels to be considered medicinal. Used as a supplement bromelain is believed to have a variety of anti-inflammatory properties.

Currently bromelain is considered effective as a treatment for osteoarthritis when used in conjunction with 2 other supplements called trypsin and rutin.

Of course, it may be more than just the enzyme bromelain that makes the pineapple a great source of heath and healing. Pineapples are also high in vitamin C, an essential antioxidant.

The pineapple has had a long history of being considered a health food. This tropical fruit has been used by a number of civilizations as a nutritional staple. Native to South America, the pineapple has since been transported around the world and is now grown in a number of tropical regions, most notably Hawaii.

Pineapples can be used in a number of ways to boost health. Adding fresh pineapple to your diet is an easy way to get more vitamin C and bromelain into your system. The bromelain extract can also be taken as a supplement to introduce greater quantities of the anti-inflammatory enzyme into your body.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine there are a number of practical benefits of adding bromelain to your daily routine. These may include:

  • Reducing swelling in the nose or sinuses after surgery or an injury
  • Reducing the effects of hay fever
  • Treating ulcerative colitis
  • Removing dead and damaged tissue after a burn
  • Preventing pulmonary edema
  • Actin as a muscle relaxant
  • Reducing clotting
  • Improving the effectiveness and absorption of antibiotic medications
  • Preventing cancer
  • Shortening labor during childbirth
  • Reducing body fat

In treating chronic pain conditions, specialists have most often seen bromelain’s effective in patients with osteoarthritis and knee pain.

When it comes to using bromelain for treating arthritis, it is considered most effective when combined with 2 additional supplements.

The 1st of these supplements is trypsin which is found in the digestive system of many vertebrate species and is produced in the pancreas. Trypsin has long been used in food production as a tenderizer or baking enzyme. It is frequently used as a supplement for individuals who do not naturally produce the proper enzymes for digestion. When used with bromelain, it has been shown to aid in reducing the inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.

The 2nd supplement is rutin which is most commonly found in a plant native to South Africa common called the ice plant. This is an invasive species, but it can be harvested for its anti-inflammatory properties. Rutin is also present in other plants including buckwheat, eucalyptus, elder flowers, and St. John’s Wort. The current belief is that rutin strengthens blood vessels.

When combined with bromelain, rutin and trypsin can help reduce inflammation caused by osteoarthritis and knee pain. In some cases the supplements have been more effective than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. The current recommended dose for arthritis patients is 500 to 2,000 milligrams a day divided between 2 doses.

When used as a supplement, the Institute of Biomedical Education and Research in India notes that:

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in Western countries; in USA prevalence of osteoarthritis ranges from 3.2 to 33% dependent on the joint. A combination of bromelain, trypsin, and rutin was compared to diclofenac in 103 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. After six weeks, both treatments resulted in significant and similar reduction in the pain and inflammation. Bromelain is a food supplement that may provide an alternative treatment to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs). It plays an important role in the pathogenesis of arthritis. Bromelain has analgesic properties which are thought to be the result of its direct influence on pain mediators such as bradykinin. The earliest reported studies investigating bromelain were a series of case reports on 28 patients, with moderate or severe rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.

This and other studies have continually demonstrated the analgesic properties of the bromelain supplement combination in patients with arthritis. According to the National Institutes of Health, many previous studies have been uncontrolled or comparative but researchers are pushing the issue further. If this supplement is proven to have better, long-term effects on osteoarthritis it could change the way this chronic condition is treated across the board.

Notes a study in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal:

Bromelain is a food supplement that may provide an alternative treatment to NSAIDs for patients with osteoarthritis. Bromelain is a crude, aqueous extract obtained from both the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant, which contains a number of proteolytic enzymes and has shown potentially beneficial effects due to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Currently, bromelain is used for acute inflammation and sports injuries. It is not a licensed medical product and is freely available to the general public in health food stores and pharmacies in the USA and Europe.

There are very few side effects of bromelain. Natural supplements of any sort have been known to have adverse reactions with prescription medications so be sure to talk with your doctor before adding this supplement to your current chronic pain treatment program. Bromelain is considered generally safe for all patients. There may be some minor side effects including stomach discomfort and diarrhea. The biggest risk is to people with allergies so if you’ve had allergic reactions to pineapples, wheat, celery, papain, carrot, fennel, cypress pollen, or grass pollen you may not be able to take bromelain. Negative experiences with this supplement have been observed in people with these sensitivities.

While bromelain is found in fresh pineapples it is generally not considered to be in high enough concentrations to provide any additional medical benefit. However, adding pineapple to your diet will result in a number of additional health boosts. Before adding bromelain supplements to your treatment plan, talk with your doctor about the viability of the treatment for your specific condition.

What are your thoughts on this natural compound found in pineapples and how it can help your chronic pain condition?

Image by CIAT via Flickr


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