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Why does pineapple help with swelling?

Pineapple has become a popular natural remedy for reducing inflammation and swelling. But why does it have this effect? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind pineapple’s anti-inflammatory properties.

Pineapple Contains Bromelain

The main reason pineapple can help with swelling is that it contains an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain is a mixture of proteolytic enzymes, meaning it breaks down proteins. It is found in all parts of the pineapple plant, but most concentrated in the stem and fruit.

When taken as a supplement or eaten raw, bromelain enters the bloodstream and helps break down proteins that contribute to inflammation. This includes proteins like fibrin and plasmin that promote swelling. By breaking them down, bromelain reduces swelling and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Some of bromelain’s key anti-inflammatory effects include:

  • Reducing swelling in injured or arthritic joints
  • Helping treat sport injuries and speed up recovery
  • Alleviating sinus inflammation and respiratory issues
  • Improving digestion and reducing intestinal inflammation

Let’s take a closer look at the evidence behind bromelain’s effects on swelling and inflammation.

Research on Bromelain for Swelling and Inflammation

Numerous scientific studies have shown bromelain can effectively reduce swelling caused by injuries, surgery, and inflammatory conditions:

Post-Surgery Swelling

Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated that taking bromelain supplements before and after surgery can significantly decrease swelling, bruising, and pain compared to placebo groups.

For example, in one study of people undergoing knee surgery, those who took bromelain had less knee swelling and stiffness compared to the control group. Bromelain has also been shown to reduce facial bruising and discomfort after dental surgery.

Muscle Soreness and Injuries

Because of its ability to break down proteins involved in inflammation, bromelain can minimize swelling around injured or overworked muscles. Studies show it can lessen pain and accelerate recovery from sprains, strains, and other soft tissue sports injuries.

It may also relieve muscle soreness after exercise. In one study, taking bromelain for a few days after intense aerobic exercise reduced markers of inflammation and muscle damage.


The swelling and joint inflammation that characterize arthritis may be reduced with bromelain supplements. One clinical trial found bromelain was as effective as over-the-counter anti-inflammatories for relieving osteoarthritis pain and stiffness.

Sinus Inflammation

Some research indicates bromelain may help relieve sinusitis symptoms like sinus pressure and congestion by reducing inflammation. More studies are still needed, but current evidence is promising.

Condition Research Findings on Bromelain
Post-surgical swelling – Reduces facial bruising after dental surgery

– Decreases knee swelling and discomfort after knee arthroscopy
Sports injuries – Accelerates healing of sprains and strains

– Alleviates pain and swelling from soft tissue injuries
Arthritis – As effective as anti-inflammatory medication for osteoarthritis pain and stiffness
Sinusitis – May relieve sinus inflammation and pressure

– More research still needed

This table summarizes some of the main research demonstrating bromelain’s ability to reduce swelling under different conditions.

How to Use Pineapple for Reducing Swelling

Here are some tips on using pineapple to minimize inflammation and swelling:

  • Eat fresh pineapple – To get the most bromelain, eat fresh pineapple chunks or juice. Canned pineapple has much lower bromelain levels.
  • Combine with other anti-inflammatories – For best results, eat pineapple along with other natural anti-inflammatories like turmeric, ginger, cherries, or omega-3 fats.
  • Take a bromelain supplement – Look for a bromelain supplement containing at least 2000 MCU (milk clotting units) per serving.
  • Time it right – Take bromelain supplements on an empty stomach, several times per day, to maximize absorption.
  • Avoid if you have allergies – Those allergic to pineapple should avoid bromelain due to the risk of reactions.

The anti-inflammatory dosage for bromelain is around 500-2000 MCU taken 2-3 times daily. It’s best taken on an empty stomach but can be taken with food if it causes discomfort.

Bromelain supplements are widely available online or in stores specializing in vitamins and supplements. For general inflammation, look for a broad-spectrum bromelain product. For acute swelling after surgery or an injury, products that provide 2000+ MCU per serving can offer maximum anti-inflammatory effects.

Speak to your healthcare provider before taking bromelain if you have any medical conditions or are taking medication, since it can interact with some drugs like antibiotics. Rarely, bromelain may cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea or vomiting. Discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur.

Other Pineapple Health Benefits

In addition to being anti-inflammatory, pineapple offers other benefits for health:

  • Digestion – Bromelain may improve digestion, reduce bloating/gas, and decrease diarrhea.
  • Immunity – Pineapple contains vitamin C, manganese and antioxidants that support immune health.
  • Bone strength – Manganese in pineapple promotes bone formation and strength.
  • Wound healing – Bromelain increases blood flow and supports tissue repair.
  • Skin health – Antioxidants like vitamin C boost collagen and benefit skin.

So while reducing swelling and inflammation are pineapple’s main health perks, it also offers additional nutritional benefits.

The Bottom Line

Pineapple is an effective natural remedy for swelling and inflammation largely thanks to its content of bromelain. This anti-inflammatory enzyme breaks down proteins that promote fluid retention and swelling.

Research shows bromelain can decrease swelling after surgery or injuries, arthritis pain, muscle soreness, and sinus pressure. Eating fresh pineapple delivers a healthy dose of bromelain, but taking a supplement maximizes its anti-inflammatory effects.

Along with being anti-inflammatory, pineapple also offers benefits for immunity, digestion, bone strength, wound healing and skin health. Adding fresh pineapple to your diet or taking a bromelain supplement can promote overall health as part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Just be sure to consult your doctor first if you have any underlying health conditions or take medications.