Animal Researche: 18pt;">Pineapple-derived enzyme extract bromelain may help alleviate allergies and other inflammatory conditions.
Bromelain is an enzyme mixture isolated from pineapple plants. It possesses a number of therapeutic effects, including:
- Anti-inflammatory activity. Bromelain may help alleviate allergies, sinusitis, and other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders by reducing inflammation.
Bromelain is an extract isolated from pineapples (Ananas comosus) that contains protein-digesting enzymes known as proteinases as its main active ingredient. Pineapple has a long history of use in traditional Asian medicine, suggesting that bromelain is the component responsible for its medicinal effects.
Indeed, decades of research have confirmed that bromelain possesses a number of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, edema-reducing, and blood clot-reducing activity.
Bromelain has been used by clinicians since the 1950s to help remove dead tissue following severe burns and aid with surgery recovery. However, it is far more popular as a dietary supplement used to help with inflammation-related pain, sinusitis, bronchitis, angina, thrombophlebitis, and other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. In this sense it is considered a viable replacement for glucocorticoids, a class of medications that alleviate allergies, inflammation, and autoimmunity.
How Bromelain Might Help With Immunity
Anti-inflammatory and Immunomodulatory activity
Bromelain has been shown to exert a wide range of effects on the immune system that ultimately work together to reduce inflammation. More specifically, studies report that bromelain: 1
- Reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β, IL-6, INF-γ and TNF-α in cases of inflammation-induced cytokine overproduction, such as that seen in inflammatory bowel disease
- Increases the levels of cytokines that control the immune response and promote immune cell activity, such as granulocyte-macrophage-colony stimulating factor, IL-2, IL-6
- Activates natural killer cells
- Reduces the levels of immune cells involved in allergies, such as eosinophils, CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes
Bromelain Benefits and Uses for ImmunityAs an immune system supplement, bromelain is primarily used to alleviate conditions marked by inflammation, including:
- Allergies and asthma
- Sinusitis and bronchitis
- Autoimmune conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis
In this sense, it is a popular alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) and glucosteroids, which often come with a number of unwanted side effects. There is research evidence to support all of these bromelain uses, although most findings are restricted to cell culture and animal studies, meaning that more human trials are needed to say anything conclusive.
Cell culture and animal studies of bromelain’s effects on the immune system demonstrate that it may:
- Enhance the immune system’s inflammatory response in cases where it may deficient 3
- Reduce the inflammation seen in inflammatory bowel disease by decreasing levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting that it may be “a novel therapy for IBD” 4
- Stimulate the immune system, as shown by increased levels of certain cytokines and immune cell proliferation in both healthy individuals and those suffering from autoimmune conditions 5
- Alleviate asthma and other allergic airway conditions in rodents 6 7
Human ResearchOnly a few human studies of bromelain supplementation have been performed to date, suggesting that it has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating properties that may be applicable in a wide range of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
This study explored the use of bromelain for helping with sinusitis. A total of 116 children (11 and under) with an acute episode of sinusitis were given standard treatment, a bromelain product (Bromelain-POS®), or a combination of the two. The bromelain-only group had the shortest duration of sinusitis symptoms (6.7 days) compared to 8 days for standard therapy and 9 days for the combination treatment, suggesting that they recovered faster.
- The researchers concluded that “…Bromelain-POS® is widely used in the treatment of young children diagnosed with acute sinusitis in Germany and that the use of proteolytic enzymes can benefit such patients.” 8
Fifteen men were given bromelain to examine its effects on the immune system in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study. The men took a single dose of placebo tablets, or one of two bromelain doses (1000 FIP or 3000 FIP), before switching groups so that all three treatments were tried. Bromelain was found to change the levels of certain cytokines, suggesting an effect on T cell-mediated immune system function.
- The researchers concluded that “…the immunomodulating effect of bromelain observed in this trial is part of its known antiinflammatory activities. Further investigations will be necessary to verify the relevance of these findings to a diseased immune system.” 9
This report described the cases of two female patients with ulcerative colitis who successfully supplemented with bromelain. The patients – who found no relief with standard drugs – saw rapid improvement after one week of supplementing with bromelain, which was confirmed by healing of intestinal mucosa and other endoscopy findings.
- The researchers concluded that “In ulcerative colitis, bromelain may act by way of flbrinolysis...”10