Imagine sitting outside and enjoying a fresh slice of pineapple when, suddenly, your mouth starts to burn. Believe it or not, this reaction is perfectly normal. But in some cases, it may be a pineapple allergy, sensitivity or intolerance.
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Here are some of the reasons you might feel burning or other side effects when you snack on the fruit.
Can You Be Allergic to Pineapple?
Fruit allergies are common and tend to develop in childhood, per the Mayo Clinic. Some fruits — like apples, peaches and kiwis — are more likely to cause allergic reactions than others, per the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR). But you can also be allergic to pineapple and other fruits like prunes, oranges, melons or bananas.
Allergic reactions typically occur minutes after eating the offending fruit (or products that contain it, like granola bars or cocktails) and tend to affect your mouth, tongue, lips and throat, per the IANR.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of fruit allergies include:
- Swelling of the face, mouth, lips and tongue
- Itchy or tingly mouth
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Stomach pain
- Skin rashes like hives
If you have a pineapple allergy, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll react to other fruits, too. But to avoid unpleasant symptoms, you should skip pineapple, whether fresh, canned or juiced, per the Mayo Clinic.
Some people can have an extreme allergic reaction to pineapple called anaphylaxis, where your throat closes up and makes it difficult to breathe, per the IANR. Seek medical care immediately if this happens to you.
What About Pineapple Intolerance?
Do you have stomach discomfort after eating pineapple? This may indicate a food intolerance, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Unlike food allergies, this condition isn't life-threatening, chiefly affects your digestion and can develop over several hours after you eat pineapple.
Common symptoms of a pineapple intolerance include:
- Stomach pain
Salicylates — a chemical found in pineapple and other plants that protects them from disease, per November 2020 research in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences — may be to blame for these symptoms.
- Legumes like beans and lentils
The fix? Avoid or reduce the amount of pineapple you eat, per the Cleveland Clinic, and watch out for reactions to any other foods high in salicylates.
Why Pineapple Hurts Your Mouth
If your only reaction to pineapple is a burning sensation in your mouth, a pineapple allergy or intolerance is not to blame.
The culprit is bromelain, a naturally occurring enzyme in the fruit, according to the University of Melbourne. Luckily, it's not a bromelain allergy — the burning happens as the enzyme breaks down proteins in your mouth, and should go away once you swallow the pineapple.
As a bonus, bromelain may be good for you: It helps your body break down protein, fight inflammation and heal faster from wounds, trauma and surgery, per a December 2012 review in Biotechnology Research International. The enzyme may also help protect against cancer and relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis, angina pectoris, allergic airway disease, chronic inflammatory disorders and diarrhea.
Health Benefits of Pineapple
When to See a Doctor
If mild burning in your mouth or throat is the only side effect you experience when you eat pineapple, there's nothing to worry about, per the University of Melbourne.
But if you experience the following symptoms, it's worth visiting your doctor to determine if a pineapple allergy or intolerance is to blame:
- Digestive problems like upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or heartburn
- Allergic reaction symptoms like swelling, itching, trouble breathing or skin rashes
- Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: "Allergenic Foods and Their Allergens, With Links to Informall"
- University of Melbourne: "The Flesh-Eating Pineapple"
- Biotechnology Research International: "Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain: A Review"
- Mayo Clinic: "Food Allergy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Food allergy: Can it develop later in life?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Food Problems: Is it an Allergy or Intolerance"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Natural Salicylates and Their Roles in Human Health"
- Nutrients: "Effectiveness of Personalized Low Salicylate Diet in the Management of Salicylates Hypersensitive Patients: Interventional Study"
- My Food Data: "Pineapple"