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Bromelain -- also called bromelin -- is an enzyme. It occurs naturally in pineapple. As a supplement, it's often used to ease pain and swelling.

Why do people take bromelain?

Bromelain seems to reduce inflammation, at least in some cases. When taken along with trypsin and rutin, bromelain appears to help with osteoarthritis, relieving pain and improving joint function.

Studies have also found that bromelain might help with knee pain not caused by arthritis, sinus infections (especially when paired with antibiotics), recovery from surgery (like sinus surgery), and colitis. As a cream, it might help relieve rashes and burns.

Researchers have looked at bromelain as a treatment for other conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and urinary infections. For now, we don't know if it helps.

How much bromelain should you take?

There is no standard dose for bromelain. For swelling, some experts have recommended a range of 80 milligrams to 320 milligrams of extract taken two to three times daily. One or two 200-milligram bromelain tablets are used for knee pain. Ask your health care provider for advice.

Bromelain might work best when taken without food.

Can you get bromelain naturally from foods?

Bromelain comes from the stem and fruit of the pineapple.

What are the risks of taking bromelain?

  • Side effects. Bromelain can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and heavy menstrual periods. It can trigger reactions in people with allergies to pineapples, certain pollens, carrots, celery, rye and wheat flour, latex, bee venom, and other substances.
  • Risks. Bromelain can raise the risk of bleeding. Make sure to stop taking it at least two weeks before surgery. Check with a doctor before using bromelain if you have any health conditions, such as a bleeding disorder, asthma, heart problems, liver or kidney disease, or stomach ulcers.
  • Interactions. If you take any drugs or supplements regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using bromelain. It could interact with certain antibiotics, blood thinners, antiplatelet drugs, aspirin and NSAID painkillers, and cancer drugs. Eating potatoes or soybeans when you take bromelain could make it less effective.

Given the lack of evidence about its safety, bromelain is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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