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Can pineapple give you diarrhea?

Pineapple is a delicious and nutritious tropical fruit enjoyed around the world. However, some people report experiencing diarrhea after eating fresh pineapple or drinking pineapple juice. So what’s the deal – can pineapple really cause diarrhea?

What Causes Diarrhea from Pineapple?

The primary culprit behind pineapple’s laxative effects is an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme, meaning it breaks down protein molecules. It’s found in high concentrations in pineapple stems, leaves, and fruit.

When you eat pineapple, bromelain enters your digestive tract where it starts breaking down proteins. This can lead to diarrhea in a few ways:

  • Irritation of the intestinal lining. Bromelain may irritate and damage protective mucus lining the gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation and leakage of fluid into the intestines.
  • Disruption of digestion. Bromelain may interfere with the digestion and absorption of protein. Undigested protein enters the colon, causing an osmotic effect and loose stools.
  • Increased intestinal motility. By damaging proteins, bromelain may speed up intestinal transit time and propel contents through the gut more rapidly.

So in summary, the proteolytic activity of bromelain alters the gastrointestinal environment and can set the stage for diarrhea in sensitive individuals.

How Much Pineapple Causes Diarrhea?

The amount of pineapple needed to cause diarrhea depends on the bromelain content and someone’s sensitivity to the enzyme.

Bromelain content is highest in the pineapple stem and core. The flesh contains less bromelain, but still substantial amounts:

Pineapple Part Bromelain Content
Stem 1900-2000 GDU/g
Core 3000-3700 GDU/g
Flesh 30-1100 GDU/g

GDU stands for gelatin digesting units and represents bromelain activity. As you can see, even the flesh contains considerable bromelain – though less than the core or stem.

In one study, researchers found that eating ~125g of pineapple flesh resulted in four-fold higher stool output compared to banana flesh. So a single serving of fresh pineapple may pack enough bromelain to impact digestion.

However, someone with a sensitive digestive system may react to a much smaller quantity. Factors like gut health, intestinal permeability, and enzyme efficiency can influence sensitivity to bromelain.

Other Causes of Pineapple Diarrhea

While bromelain is the primary cause of pineapple-related diarrhea, a few other factors can play a role:

  • Fiber content – Pineapple contains 2-3 grams of fiber per cup. While not extremely high in fiber, this could cause loose stools in someone not accustomed to a high fiber diet.
  • Fructose malabsorption – Pineapple contains substantial amounts of fructose. Someone with impaired fructose absorption may experience osmotic diarrhea after eating pineapple.
  • Sorbitol intolerance – Pineapple contains sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. Sorbitol can draw water into the intestines via osmosis, causing diarrhea in those with difficulty absorbing it.
  • Mold content – Spoiled or moldy pineapple can contain toxins and microbes that cause gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea.

While most blame bromelain, effects from the fiber, sugars, and mold content may contribute to pineapple’s propensity for diarrhea.

Groups at Risk of Pineapple Diarrhea

Although anyone can get diarrhea from pineapple, some groups seem especially prone to this laxative effect:

  • Individuals with IBS – Those with irritable bowel syndrome often have increased gut reactivity and motility. Pineapple’s high bromelain content can overstimulate their sensitive intestines.
  • People with enzyme deficiencies – Individuals with low digestive enzyme output (e.g. pancreatic insufficiency) may be less equipped to handle bromelain’s protein-digesting effects.
  • Those taking antibiotics – Antibiotics disrupt gut flora responsible for protein breakdown. With less intrinsic protein digestion, pineapple bromelain activity can cause issues.
  • Sensitive digesters – Some healthy people simply have more reactive bowels and may not tolerate pineapple’s enzymatic effects.

While most people can enjoy pineapple just fine, those with delicate digestive balances are more likely to experience diarrhea and GI distress from the fruit.

Does Cooking or Canning Pineapple Reduce Diarrhea Risk?

Fresh pineapple has the highest bromelain content and greatest risk of causing diarrhea. However, processing techniques like canning and cooking can inactivate some of the enzyme activity:

  • Canning – Canned pineapple retains only about 10-30% of fresh pineapple’s bromelain activity, likely due to heat treatment during processing.
  • Juicing – Juicing removes the stem and core but still contains substantial bromelain. Juice retains around 30-60% of fresh flesh bromelain activity.
  • Cooking – Bromelain starts to denature and lose activity around 118°F. Higher temperatures and longer cooking further destroys the enzyme.

While processing reduces bromelain content, canned or cooked pineapple can still cause issues in sensitive individuals. More significant enzyme degradation happens at temperatures above 250°F – which exceeds normal cooking temps.

Other Facts About Pineapple and Diarrhea

Here are a few other things to know about pineapples and digestion:

  • The bromelain in pineapple has been studied as an oral supplement to reduce intestinal inflammation, improve digestion, and counter diarrhea – but these medicinal uses require careful dosing.
  • Pineapple allergies are rare but possible. Diarrhea can be a symptom of a food allergy or sensitivity versus just the bromelain effect.
  • Organic pineapples may have lower pesticide residues but similar bromelain content as conventional varieties.
  • Pineapple ripeness and color does not necessarily correlate with bromelain content – an underripe white pineapple can still pack an enzymatic punch.

Tips to Reduce the Risk of Pineapple Diarrhea

Here are some tips to help minimize the chances that pineapple gives you diarrhea:

  • Start with small servings to test your tolerance, especially if you’re sensitive to high-fiber fruits.
  • Avoid the core and stem, which have the highest bromelain content.
  • Choose canned varieties, which have reduced bromelain enzyme activity from heat processing.
  • Cook fresh pineapple to partially deactivate the bromelain before eating.
  • Add yogurt or other probiotics to help counteract pineapple’s digestive effects.
  • Consider taking a bromelain supplement to improve protein digestion if fresh pineapple causes diarrhea.

When to See a Doctor

In most cases, pineapple-induced diarrhea is mild and resolves on its own. However, consult your physician if you experience:

  • Diarrhea lasting more than 3 days
  • Signs of dehydration from fluid loss
  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • Blood or mucus in stool
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fever or other signs of infection

These symptoms could indicate an underlying digestive problem that requires medical attention. Repeated, severe diarrhea after eating pineapple may also warrantseeing a gastroenterologist to evaluate for fruit sugar malabsorption, bile acid diarrhea, or other conditions.

The Bottom Line

Pineapple is a nutritious fruit with a long history of use in traditional medicine. But its high bromelain content can cause diarrhea, especially when raw. Canned and cooked pineapple have lower bromelain levels and less risk of diarrhea.

Those with sensitive bowels may need to avoid fresh pineapple entirely. But most people can enjoy the fruit in moderation by following basic precautions. While inconvenient, pineapple-related diarrhea is usually not a major cause for concern.