Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to tissue damage. But despite your body’s healing efforts, inflammation can be unsightly and painful. This can be especially true in sensitive or frequently used areas like the face and joints.
Much to the dismay of the pharmaceutical industry’s best efforts, many patients are still seeking out natural solutions, like bromelain and quercetin supplements, to reduce inflammation after surgery or injury. Find out if this botanical combination is the best natural anti-inflammatory for you.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the immune system’s biological response to injury or damage. Inflammation facilitates the removal of harmful stimuli and irritants, provides protection to an injured area, and allows the healing process to begin.
There are two types of inflammation that can occur in the body: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is associated with injury or surgery. It is short-lived and usually appears within a few minutes or hours following a trauma.
The five characteristics of acute inflammation are: redness, increased heat, swelling, pain and loss of function. Acute inflammation can be caused by damaged cells, irritants or pathogens and will typically resolve itself upon the removal of the offender. When acute inflammation is not resolved, it becomes a chronic condition, which ultimately causes cellular destruction at the affected site.
Unresolved acute inflammation is not the only way to get chronic inflammation. When internal organs become injured or irritated, they also become inflamed – although this type of systemic inflammation doesn’t produce the same symptoms as acute inflammation.
Because the five symptoms of acute inflammation can only be observed on the surface of the body, chronic inflammation generally goes unnoticed. This is why chronic inflammation is sometimes referred to as “silent” inflammation.
Causes of chronic inflammation include: stress, bacteria, viruses or parasites; environmental poisons, certain foods (including sugar); smoking, high blood-insulin levels, obesity and auto-immune response. Chronic inflammation is especially dangerous. When left untreated, it can lead to conditions like arthritis, heart disease, periodontitis, hay fever and possibly certain types of cancer. Ask your doctor for a simple blood test to determine if you have chronic inflammation.
Bromelain: For Inflammation & Swelling
Bromelain is an enzyme that is naturally found in the pineapple plant. Although it can be found in all parts of the fruit, it is typically extracted from the stem.
The enzyme bromelain is considered to be proteolytic, meaning that it helps to digest proteins. For this reason, bromelain is commonly used in household meat tenderizers.
Historically, bromelain has been used in both folk and modern medicine as a digestive aid and as a natural anti-inflammatory. South and Central Americans used pineapple to treat indigestion and swelling for centuries before the enzyme was identified.
Bromelain was first isolated from the pineapple plant in the late 1800’s but medical research on bromelain as a therapeutic supplement didn’t begin until 1957. More recently, countries in Asia and Europe have increased research and use of bromelain as a supplement.
Bromelain can be used for many different conditions but it has documented therapeutic effects in the treatment of inflammation, particularly after dental surgery and for chronic inflammation of the nose and sinuses.
Studies have shown that bromelain can help reduce inflammation after surgery, reduce swelling after dental surgery, and reduce post surgical swelling.
Other conditions that involve inflammation like acne, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis may also benefit from supplementation with bromelain.
Quercetin: A Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Quercetin is a type of flavonoid – a plant pigment that gives plants and fruits their color – that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Quercetin, found concentrated in foods such as onions and apples, reduces the manufacture and release of histamine and other allergic and inflammatory mediators. This flavonoid is also a potent antioxidant and may help protect against diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Today, quercetin is gaining popularity as a supplement and in sports drinks to help improve endurance and athletic performance.
Bromelain and Quercetin: Uses & Benefits
Studies have shown that systemic enzymes for inflammation (like bromelain) combined with quercetin, produce greater anti-inflammatory benefits than either one used alone. Thus, the combination of bromelain and quercetin is ideal for effectively inhibiting the inflammatory response in both acute and chronic inflammatory conditions.
Both bromelain and quercetin supplements are relatively easy to find. But these products are typically sold in combination with other enzymes (e.g., papain, amylase) or antioxidants (vitamin C), and are not as effective in relieving inflammation.
Of the bromelain-only formulations available, many do not provide sufficient dosages to be effective as an anti-inflammatory. Additionally, most of these formulations do not contain quercetin which works with the bromelain to increase the efficacy of both.
Since bromelain and quercetin are recommended to be taken together for maximum anti-inflammatory benefit, formulas that contain both ingredients are ideal. This also simplifies the dosing schedule and reduces the total number of capsules needed to be taken throughout the day.
VitaMedica’s Bromelain with Quercetin combines both anti-inflammatory supplements into one convenient formulation.
Bromelain Dosage: Look for MCUs
Unlike many vitamins and minerals, which are measured by weight (e.g., mg or mcg), bromelain is measured by either milk clotting units (MCUs) or gelatin dissolving units (GDUs).
As a result, the best measure of a bromelain-containing supplement’s efficacy is based on MCUs or GDUs and not milligrams.
MCUs and GDUs are used somewhat interchangeably (1 GDU equals 1.5 MCU) and relate to the activity level of the bromelain. Since bromelain is an enzyme, a measure of its strength is how quickly it can breakdown a protein.
To be effective, at least 3,000 MCUs of bromelain must be consumed in divided amounts during the course of a day.
To ensure that the bromelain works on the site of injury and not in aiding digestion, it is best to take it on an empty stomach.
Quercetin Dosage: 500-2,500 mg
For quercetin, dosing is measured in milligrams (mg). The recommended dosage varies based on the type and extent of the issue to be treated. Dosages can range from 500 – 2,500 mg per day, in divided doses.
Bromelain and Quercetin: Before or After a Surgical Procedure?
Bromelain should be taken 72 hours or 3 days prior to surgery. Bromelain should be continued for 7 days following surgery. Following trauma or injury, Bromelain should be started as quickly as possible and continued for 10 days.
Whether you are trying to hide the visible signs of post-procedure swelling, or are simply recovering from an injury, bromelain and quercetin are the best natural anti-inflammatory supplements to get you on the road to recovery.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.