Bromelain Is a Digestive Enzyme That Can Help Support Gut Health, but It’s Only Found in One Food Group

Photo: Stocksy/ Jeremy Pawlowski
If your obsession with pineapples can match the love of that iconic yellow sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea is, bromelain might just be your new favorite thing. A powerful digestive enzyme found in none other than this sweet tropical fruit derived from South America, bromelain has been shown to help alleviate an array of ailments like inflammation, sinus problems, and constipation.

So, can a pine-apple a day also help keep the doctor away? Well, yes and no. Here to give us the full rundown on what makes this enzyme a standout is Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a Miami-based registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Read on to learn more about the best way to get sufficient amounts of bromelain in your diet, its health benefits, and the wonders it can do for your digestive system.

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What is bromelain, and is it only found in pineapples?

According to Ehsani, bromelain is an enzyme extracted from the pineapple fruit, particularly its stem, that has a variety of health and therapeutic benefits to offer. “Bromelain has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-microbial, and anti-thrombotic properties,” she says. "Research has suggested that this enzyme may also be beneficial in helping reduce inflammation in those with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease."

Ehsani also says that another benefit of pineapples' bromelain content is that it may help your body digest and process foods rich in protein. "Bromelain is an enzyme that breaks down protein, so it can help you better digest protein-rich foods. Take, for example, when you are eating a big piece of steak,” she says. This, Ehsani says, is the same reason that bromelain has been linked to helping boost digestion and alleviate symptoms of constipation. “It help break down foods—especially protein-rich foods—in your digestive tract."

Although many other foods like papaya, mango, and bananas also contain natural digestive enzymes that help promote gut health, bromelain can only be found in pineapple.

What’s the best way to consume bromelain?

Very key caveat: Generally speaking, consuming only fresh pineapple won't supply the necessary amounts to reap its health benefits on a daily basis. However, bromelain can be consumed in the form of dietary supplements upon approval from a healthcare professional. “There isn’t a standard dose identified, [however,] taking 200-400 mg up to three times a day on an empty stomach is recommended for adults looking for anti-inflammatory benefits,” Ehsani says. “There is also evidence showing that taking bromelain can help reduce acute nasal and sinus inflammation when used alongside medication, which is great for allergy sufferers."

Take note that some studies have indicated that bromelain may interact with the potency and absorption of certain medications like antibiotics, blood thinners, and sedatives. Additionally, those with allergies to pineapples or have other prominent food allergies should also avoid consuming this enzyme.

Bottom line: If you’re looking to start supplementing your diet with bromelain, Ehsani says you should speak with a healthcare professional to ensure it’s right for you first. But in the meantime, keep scarfing down on the season's finest pineapples—you have nothing to lose but luscious flavor.

Pineapple on your mind? Try making a gluten-free and vegan pineapple upside-down cake! 

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