Bromelain Acts Against Cancer and Inflammation

A recent study reported in Cancer Letter reports that Bromelain, a mixture of enzymes found in pineapple fruits and stems, has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Pre-treating rats with Bromelain resulted in fewer tumors in rats, and a 65% decrease in tumor size. Bromelain also activated an anti-cancer gene, and blocked inflammatory responses. This squares with other research that has shown Bromelain (and other protein-digesting enzymes) to be an effective anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory substance (see this study which shows that when enzymes are given preventatively, cancer does not develop).

Bromelain is relatively inexpensive, and I take it regularly on an empty stomach before exercising, because of its anti-inflammatory activity. Most experts recommend supplementing with Bromelain and other enzymes between meals, because if taken with meals, they will digest food rather than be absorbed by the body as anti-inflammatory agents. Because enzymes are large molecules, and poorly absorbed, therapeutic dosages of enzymes tend to be rather high. The study I mentioned above used 45 mg of proteololytic (protein-digesting) enzymes per kilogram of body weight. I weigh 72 kilograms, so this means I would need 3.2 grams of proteolytic enzymes to have the effect, which is not a huge amount, but more than I currently take. I have been fascinated by therapeutic enzymes since I first read about the science behind them in high school. The “gold standard” of therapeutic enzymes is Wobenzym, and it includes Bromelain.

How I Got Rid of My Knee Pain

The title of this post may sound like an advertisement for a joint supplement, but it isn’t. I thought I would share how I dramatically improved my knee pain over the last few months. I am not saying what I did will work for you, but it seems to have worked well for me. I like to run, and I play basketball with the high school basketball team twice a week, so I need healthy knees. One thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to go to the doctor unless I absolutely had to. I had no desire to be prescribed expensive, possibly toxic, drugs that burdened our already expensive health care system.

Basically, I took two major steps that likely had the biggest effect on healing my knee pain:

1. I lost weight – I was only 10 pounds heavier than I am now, but that 10 pounds made a big difference on my knee. This is not surprising, given that every pound lost results in a fourfold reduction in load. So basically, I took 40 pounds of load off my knee. No wonder 10 pounds made such a difference! I also started running when I was about 30 pounds overweight, so I am sure this put even more strain on my knee, that eventually led to pain.

2. I strengthened my leg muscles – I read some articles online (and took the advice of a friend of mine who is a runner) that suggested that a lot of knee pain originates in the quadriceps muscle. I thought, “I have strong quads because I run almost every day, so it can’t be that.” Wrong. As my friend told me, running doesn’t really build the quads that well, but it can hurt  the knee. I found out very clearly how weak my quadriceps muscles were when I added leg press and leg curl to my regular lifting workout. Despite running regularly for over a year, my initial weight lifted was very low. In fact over two months, I have increased my leg curl load by 450%. That shows that my quads were just crying out for serious development! Initially, the quad exercises hurt my knees, but it ceased gradually. Some more good news is that developing large leg muscles (like the quads) may help the body build muscle elsewhere, because of changes it causes in the entire body.

I also made a few minor changes that may or may not have had an effect:

1. I began taking MSM – MSM has been shown in some studies to help with knee pain. It is debatable whether it helps, but since it is pretty much harmless, I decided to give it a try (as a side benefit, some people think it may help prevent wrinkles!). I have taken Glucosamine Sulfate as a preventative measure since about 2001, and I am not sure how well it has worked. I still developed knee pain while taking it, but it is possible it prevented more serious pain and damage.

2. I increased my enzyme supplements – Protein digesting enzymes, like Bromelain and Papain, when taken on an empty stomach, have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Some studies show a positive benefit for joint pain. I started taking them much more regularly in the last few months. They are best take preventatively, before exercise. One drawback is that you need a lot of them to have an effect.

What I didn’t do:

1. Use Salicylic Acid based creams – I read somewhere (I can’t find it now) that using even a little of this sort of sport cream is liking taking multiple aspirin tablets a day. I didn’t want to merely cover up the problem at a risk of toxicity from too much aspirin and aspirin-like compounds.

2. Use knee braces – Studies show commercial ones (that you can buy at stores) don’t really work that well. I found that my knees hurt worse after using a brace I bought at Wal-Mart a few years ago.

Knee pain stinks, and I am not saying what I did will work for you, but I hope it helps you find your way to healthier knees!

Image of me running (in the upper right…yes, it’s blurry)