The health supplement bromelain refers to a mixture of enzymes extracted from the stem and juice of the pineapple plant. People take bromelain as an alternative medication to treat a variety of health conditions, including inflammation and swelling. Because bromelain is derived from pineapples, people who are allergic to pineapples may also be allergic to it. Ask a qualified health care professional before using bromelain as an herbal medicine.
Pineapple Allergy and Bromelain
For unknown reasons, normally harmless substances in certain foods, such as pineapple, cause allergic reactions in some people. Those allergic to pineapple may or may not be also allergic to bromelain. A person could also be allergic to different compounds in pineapples besides bromelain. And even though bromelain is extracted from pineapples, the enzymes in bromelain are only a small fraction of all the chemicals found in the popular fruit.
An allergic reaction to pineapple or bromelain can cause a variety of different symptoms, including itching and swelling of the skin, hives or eczema. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, stomach cramps, vomting and diarrhea may also occur. The face, lips, tongue or throat may swell, which can constrict the airway and cause asthma-like symptoms, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting are also possible.
In rare cases, bromelain or pineapple may cause an extreme allergic reaction that results in anaphylactic shock. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include extreme swelling of the throat, leading to difficulty swallowing and breath. A rapid pulse may also develop, and the skin and nails may turn blue. Lightheadedness, dizziness and loss of consciousness may eventually occur. Anaphylactic shock can be life threatening, so if you experience these symptoms of an extreme allergic reaction, contact emergency medical services immediately, advises the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Exposure to pineapple or bromelain may occur through different routes. A common source of exposure is eating pineapple or taking bromelain supplements. Additionally, people who work in factories that process bromelain may also experience an allergic reaction. Cases of asthma and nasal congestion have been documented after exposure to bromelain in an occupational setting, reports a paper published in the September 1979 issue of the journal "Clinical Allergy."
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Bromelain
- MedlinePlus: Bromelain; November 2010
- "Clinical Allergy"; Allergic Reactions, Including Asthma, to the Pineapple Protease Bromelain Following Occupational Exposure; X. Baur; September 1979
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Food Allergy; David Zieve et al.; March 2010