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Bromelain refers to the plant extracts obtained from either the stem or the fruit of Ananas comosus, a member of the Bromeliaceae family commonly known as the pineapple. Specifically, these substances are known as protease enzymes because they initiate proteolysis, or the digestion of proteins. Medicinally, bromelain is taken orally to aid digestion and, when taken on an empty stomach, to reduce inflammation. It is also used topically to treat wounds and burns. In addition, this enzyme is approved and recommended by the German Commission E as a treatment following nose, throat, or ear surgery to help ease inflammation.
As an oral supplement, bromelain has been found to be effective in reducing discomfort associated with stomach upset and heartburn. It is particularly effective when taken together with amylase and lipase, enzymes that break down starches and fats, respectively. Some studies also indicate that bromelain may counteract bacteria that are responsible for causing diarrhea.
Researchers suspect that bromelain may exhibit additional antibacterial activity, as well as antiviral. In fact, studies have shown that bromelain deters certain viruses and bacteria In vitro. Studies based on animal models have produced similar results. Therefore, bromelain may be a possible adjunct treatment for urinary tract infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
Bromelain may also provide health-giving benefits to certain organs, such as the kidneys, liver, and heart. These organs are susceptible to damage caused by amyloidosis, which occurs due to a build up of amyloid deposits. The reasoning behind this theory stems from that fact that amyloid is protein-based, and it is supported by early studies. However, more research is needed in this area to confirm preliminary findings.
One of the best-known medicinal uses of bromelain is to relieve pain and inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and bursitis. In fact, its efficacy has been compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs typically prescribed for these conditions. There is also evidence to indicate that long-term supplementation of bromelain may improve symptoms associated with some connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma.
Therapy by bromelain may not be suitable for certain individuals. For instance, an allergy to pineapple, or other plants in the Bromeliaceae family, would certainly disqualify eligibility. Since bromelain also has mild blood-thinning properties, those with high blood pressure, kidney disease, and menstrual irregularities should avoid it. In addition, bromelain has been known to produce mild side effects in some people, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Bromelain may also negatively interact with certain medications. As previously mentioned, bromelain may accelerate bleeding, so it should not be taken with warfarin, aspirin, or other blood-thinning medications. Bromelain may also interfere with antibiotic therapy. Specifically, it increases absorption of tetracycline and increases circulation of amoxicillin and tetracycline.
Bromelain is mainly extracted from pineapples and it is made into capsule or tablet form. Because it's able to digest protein, bromelain is available in some grocery stores as a meat tenderizer, as odd as that might sound. A topical form of bromelain is also being explored experimentally for burns.
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