This natural enzyme can help ease joint discomfort and inflammation, as well as soothe bruises and sprains.
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Bromelain is a mixture of protein-digesting enzymes derived from the pineapple plant. Although some enzymes are found in the fruit, the stem is the richest source.
Protein enzymes are normally broken down during digestion, but bromelain has a tightly-bonded structure that allows it to be absorbed intact.
How does it work?
Bromelain reduces the production of inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) by white blood cells (T-lymphocytes) involved in immune responses.
It also reduces the migration of these cells into areas of inflammation, so that pain and swelling resolve. Bromelain may also have an aspirin-like action to reduce the formation of unwanted blood clots.
What can it help?
Bromelain's anti-inflammatory action helps to relieve discomfort and swelling. A recent study, involving 40 people with mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis, compared the effects of bromelain (500mg/day) with the prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac (100mg/day).
Both treatments produced similar improvements in pain, stiffness and joint function after four weeks, though two people withdrew from the study.
Bromelain helps to reduce the discomfort, swelling and inflammation associated with injuries such as bruising, sprains, wounds, minor operations and burns.
It is sometimes recommended before minor surgery and liposuction, to reduce post-operative swelling and bruising. Studies have shown that after extraction of impacted molars, bromelain can be effective in reducing discomfort.
Bromelain helps to thin mucus and reduce phlegm in respiratory conditions such as sinusitis, bronchitis and asthma. A trial involving 116 people with sinusitis found that those taking bromelain recovered one and a half days more quickly than those on placebo (6.6 days versus eight.)
When should I take it?
Bromelain supplements may be taken with meals to aid the digestion of protein. When taken on an empty stomach, however, it is absorbed into the circulation and produces an anti-inflammatory effect on other parts of the body.