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 Immunity
As 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
Only 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
Dosage for Immunity
- There is currently no accepted dosage of bromelain in clinical research
- Bromelain supplements typically come in 500 mg capsules, but have different concentrations (GDU)
- The enzyme activity of bromelain supplements is measured in gelatin digestive units (GDU); the higher the GDU, the more potent the supplement
- Bromelain is frequently combined with quercetin – another plant-derived anti-inflammatory compound
- Pineapple stem-derived bromelain extract
Supplements in Review Says
- Bromelain 500 mg for immunity.
Bromelain holds much promise for relieving inflammatory or autoimmune conditions. Bromelain seems to be a viable option for alleviating allergies, sinusitis, bronchitis, ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Having said that, more research is needed to confirm anecdotal reports of its effectiveness.
500 mg is the most common dosage. Although supplements vary wildly in their potency (GDU), there isn’t any research to suggest that a higher GDU is required for optimal effects.
- Rathnavelu V et al. Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications. Biomed Rep. 2016 Sep; 5(3): 283–288. ↩
- Hale LP. Proteolytic activity and immunogenicity of oral bromelain within the gastrointestinal tract of mice. Int Immunopharmacol. 2004 Feb;4(2):255-64. ↩
- Engwerda CR et al. Bromelain activates murine macrophages and natural killer cells in vitro. Cell Immunol. 2001 May 25;210(1):5-10. ↩
- Onken JE et al. Bromelain treatment decreases secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by colon biopsies in vitro. Clin Immunol. 2008 Mar;126(3):345-52. ↩
- Barth H et al. In vitro study on the immunological effect of bromelain and trypsin on mononuclear cells from humans. Eur J Med Res. 2005 Aug 17;10(8):325-31. ↩
- Secor ER et al. Oral Bromelain Attenuates Inflammation in an Ovalbumin-induced Murine Model of Asthma. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Mar;5(1):61-9. ↩
- Secor ER Jr et al. Bromelain exerts anti-inflammatory effects in an ovalbumin-induced murine model of allergic airway disease. Cell Immunol. 2005 Sep;237(1):68-75. Epub 2005 Dec 6. ↩
- Braun JM et al. Therapeutic use, efficiency and safety of the proteolytic pineapple enzyme Bromelain-POS in children with acute sinusitis in Germany. In Vivo. 2005 Mar-Apr;19(2):417-21. ↩
- Müller S et al. Placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial on the immunomodulating activities of low- and high-dose bromelain after oral administration – new evidence on the antiinflammatory mode of action of bromelain. Phytother Res. 2013 Feb;27(2):199-204. ↩
- Kane S and Goldberg MJ. Use of bromelain for mild ulcerative colitis. Ann Intern Med. 2000 Apr 18;132(8):680. ↩