Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn's Disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), are characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Conventional medical therapies for IBD typically involve the use of anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation, including reducing the production of pro-inflammatory proteins including cytokines and chemokines. However, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the currently available therapeutic options can have limited benefit or unpleasant side effects and many patients eventually require surgery. Now researchers have found that bromelain — an enzyme derived from pineapple stems — might be able to reduce inflammation in IBD.
The study, funded by NCCAM, was led by researchers at Duke University. The researchers recruited patients with a confirmed diagnosis of CD or UC as well as a normal, non-IBD control group. In total, this pilot study recruited 51 participants: 8 controls, 20 with UC, and 23 with CD.
To assess the effect of a bromelain preparation on the production of cytokines, colon biopsies obtained from patients with UC, CD, and normal controls were treated in the lab (in vitro) with bromelain. The production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines was then measured. The researchers report that bromelain reduced production of several pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines that are elevated in IBD and play a role in the progression of IBD. The authors conclude that bromelain treatment could potentially benefit IBD patients if similar changes also occur when colon tissues are exposed to bromelain inside the body.
The researchers also suggest that additional research is needed to understand how bromelain influences chemokine and cytokine production. Such research could lead to new insights into the progression of IBD and contribute to the development of other new therapies for IBD.
Onken JE, Greer PK, Calingaert B, et al. Bromelain treatment decreases secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by colon biopsies in vitro. Clinical Immunology.;126:345–352.2008