Bromelain

Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found naturally in the juice and stems of pineapples. Called a proteolytic enzyme, bromelain is believed to help with the digestion of protein.

Some bromelain appears to be absorbed by the body intact, so it’s also thought to have effects outside the digestive tract. In fact, bromelain is often marketed as a natural anti-inflammatory for conditions such as arthritis. It’s one of the most popular supplements in Germany, where it is approved by the Commission E for the treatment of inflammation and swelling of the nose and sinuses due to surgery or injury.

Bromelain is typically extracted from pineapples and made into capsule or tablet form. Because it’s able to digest protein, bromelain is available in some grocery stores as a meat tenderizer. A topical form of bromelain is also being explored experimentally for burns.

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When used for as a digestive aid, bromelain is usually taken with meals. When used for inflammatory conditions, practitioners typically recommend taking bromelain between meals on an empty stomach to maximize absorption.

History:
Bromelain is one of a group of proteolytic enzymes that are capable of digesting protein and is found in the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant. It is extracted from the pineapple by filtration or by chemical processing, and both are safe and effective. The German Commission E (the equivalent of the USFDA) recommends the use of Bromelain as a digestive aid, a treatment for traumatic injuries and joint inflammation and a treatment for bronchitis and sinusitis. There is a great deal of new research currently being conducted into its use as an antibacterial, an antiviral (including HIV) and an immune system enhancer.

Beneficial Uses:
Bromelain is considered an aid to good digestion, because it intensifies the digestive process by breaking down protein, and facilitates the passing of food to the intestine. The ability to speed protein digestion makes it useful in treating Crohn’s disease, and the protein digesting enzymes found in it may help to heal gastric ulcers and relieve symptoms of heartburn and stomach and gastrointestinal upset. It is believed to promote and maintain overall proper digestion and may be used as a digestive enzyme for pancreatic insufficiency. Interesting note: It is so effective in digesting protein that the food industry employs Bromelain to tenderize meat.

In the matter of diabetes management,
Bromelain’s ability to facilitate the passing of food to the intestine helps to counteract gastroparesis, a condition caused by long-term diabetic nerve damage, in which the stomach is unable to pass food along properly. Controlling gastroparesis is of considerable importance in diabetes management, since delays in passing flood through the digestive tract makes the timing of insulin medications and injections difficult, and the use of Bromelain may help diabetics time the need for their insulin and other medications. Moreover, Bromelain has also been used as a digestive enzyme for pancreatic insufficiency.

Bromelain has been called a fine anti-inflammatory and is widely used after traumatic injuries and surgery. It is said to “release” inflammation by breaking down proteins in swollen tissues and is thought to reduce swelling in virtually all kinds of inflammatory reactions. Bromelain apparently inhibits formation of prostaglandin E-2, a chemical that causes inflammation, and it also helps to stimulate the production of prostaglandin E-1, an anti-inflammatory chemical. Bromelain supplements may be as effective as some commonly used nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, etc.) for reducing the pain of carpal tunnel sydrome, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been said to ease pain and bruising, bursitis, cuts, lymphedema, sore muscles, tendonitis and speeds up the healing of joint and tendon injuries.

For the relief of bronchitis and sinusitis, Bromelain is said to suppress cough, reduce nasal mucus that is associated with sinusitis and relieve the swelling and inflammation caused by hay fever and allergies. Although not all experts agree, The Complete German Commission E Monograph recommends Bromelain for sinus inflammation. Bromelain supplements are believed to enhance the efficacy of antibiotics by keeping them in the system longer and helping them to treat infection. Bromelain may also stop sinusitis from progressing to bronchitis and is also thought to decrease bronchial secretions, increasing lung function, and inhibit upper respiration infections. There have been reports that the same actions that reduce blood platelet stickiness (see heart health below) also reduce the thickness of mucus in patients with chronic bronchitis or asthma. Bromelain is also approved by the Commission for treatment of sinus and nasal swelling, following ear, nose and throat surgery or trauma, which supports its anti-inflammatory properties.

Bromelain may support good heart health and lower blood pressure. It is said to stop blood clot formation by inhibiting the platelet-activating factor (PAF), a chemical that signals blood platelets to form clots. Inhibiting PAF short-circuits the entire clotting process and leads to lower blood pressure and reductions in angina pain. This anti-clotting action might help to prevent ischemic stroke and heart attack. Moreover, it is also believed that Bromelain breaks down arteriosclerotic plaques once they have formed. This blood thinning action has been said to help in cases of thrombophlebitis.

Women may find relief from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with the use of Bromelain supplements. It is believed to balance the body’s production of prostaglandins, a class of regulatory hormones, including a number of substances that cause smooth muscles to contract. As a smooth muscle relaxant, Bromelain is thought to decrease spasms of the cervix that accompany PMS.

Bromelain is believed to have strong antiviral properties and may be very helpful in stimulating the immune system. Scientists at Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital in New York City have observed that Bromelain dissolves cellular adhesion molecules that allow HIV to attach to surfaces of uninfected

T- cells and increases production of compounds called integrins that are depleted when HIV attacks cells in the central nervous system. It also inhibits protease, an enzyme the human immunodeficiency virus HIV needs to replicate itself. Its antiviral qualities appear to provide enzymes that dissolve warts and activate immune system against the viruses that cause them.

As an antiseptic, Bromelain shows great promise in copious current lab research. Some research has shown evidence that the supplement can fight against infectious agents, such as bacteria and viruses (see above), and may prove to be a useful addition to conventional treatment of bronchitis, pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Its antibacterial effects may also help to control diarrhea caused by bacteria. Bromelain is believed to increase the actions of antibiotics and chemotherapy, apparently by keeping them in the system longer.

Recommended Dosage:
Take one (1) capsule, one (1) time each day with water at mealtimes.

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Side Effects and Safety Concerns:

Some of the more common side effects of bromelain include indigestion, nausea and diarrhea. Other side effects may include vomiting, increased heart rate, drowsiness and abnormal uterine bleeding or heavy menstruation.

Bromelain has resulted in allergic reactions and asthma symptoms, including breathing problems, tightness in the throat, skin hives, rash or 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.

People with peptic ulcers should not use bromelain. People with other digestive disorders should consult a qualified healthcare professional before using bromelain.

Theoretically, bromelain may increase the risk of bleeding, so people with bleeding disorders and those taking medication that can increase the risk of bleeding should only use bromelain under the supervision of their physician. It should not be taken two weeks before or after dental procedures or surgery.

The safety of bromelain in pregnant or nursing women, children or people with liver or kidney disease isn’t known.

Possible Drug and Herb Interactions:-
People taking “blood-thinners” (anticoagulant or anti-platelet medication), such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), heparin, clopidogrel (Plavix), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) should only use bromelain under a physician’s supervision. It should also be used with caution by people taking herbs and supplements that are thought to increase the risk of bleeding, such as ginkgo biloba and garlic.

Studies suggest bromelain may also increase the absorption of other medications, such as:

amoxicillin, tetracycline and other antibiotics

chemotherapy drugs such as 5-fluorouracil and vincristine

“ACE inhibitor” blood pressure medications such as captopril (Capoten) and lisinopril (Zestril)

medications that cause drowsiness, such as benzodiazepines lorazepam (Ativan) or diazepam (Valium), some antidepressants, narcotics such as codeine, and barbituates such as phenobarbitol.

Resources:
http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/herbsvitaminsa1/a/Bromelain.htm
http://www.herbalextractsplus.com/bromelain.cfm

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2 thoughts on “Bromelain”

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