Boosting Immunity With Pineapple

  • Muna hassan Bachelor of science in molecular biology and Genetics (2023)


Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical fruit, widely cultivated in South America, relished for its sweet taste and unique aroma, as well as its array of health benefits.1 It is renowned as a ‘superfood’ since it is a rich source of minerals and vitamins that can greatly improve general health and well-being.1 Ranking third in the world, behind bananas and citrus fruits, the demand for pineapple has expanded within the international market.1 This is largely attributed to the utilization of pineapple food-based processing products, waste processing, and greater consumption due to the nutritional values.1 

Pineapple has been shown to contain a considerable amount of bioactive compounds, minerals, nutrients and dietary fibre.1 Due to this, it can contribute to immune-boosting properties, anti-inflammatory mechanisms, and antioxidant activity.1 Furthermore, it can be beneficial to nervous system function even healing the gastrointestinal tract and improving bowel function.1 Based on the physicochemical composition and nutritional values, pineapple can be considered one of the most useful fruits in the manufacture of value-added compounds, such as bromelain, phenolic compounds and antioxidants.1 

Understanding Immunity

The immune system has evolved to protect us from a large range of pathogenic microbes, such as bacteria, fungi and viruses.2 It is also afflicted in eliminating toxic substances and it promotes allergic responses.2 Generally, a well-functioning immune system protects us from infections, maintains the health of our organs, and allows our body to function. 

Our immunity falls upon two distinct branches of the immune system, namely the innate and adaptive systems. The innate immune system is the first to respond during infection as the mechanisms involved are perpetuated within our body from birth.2 It includes physical barriers such as the skin or mucus found in your nose, lungs and stomach, preventing pathogens and toxins from entering your blood and bodily tissues.2 Moreover, it includes a family of immune cells, which can engulf and digest pathogens, eliciting a non-specific response.2

On the other hand, our adaptive immune system distinctly reacts to each pathogen, making this a more targeted approach.2 This means that it is more effective at clearing microbes and toxins, however, it also takes a longer time to be activated because chemical signals must be recognised by the immune system so that highly specific cells can proliferate and produce antibodies.2 Overall, these two systems work hand-in-hand to protect us from harm and maintain a healthy internal environment.2 

It is important to take care of your immunity to remain healthy and promote tissue repair.2 Disruptions to the immune system lead to chronic infections, inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and even dementia, and can even promote ageing.2 A greater understanding of the immune system, has allowed medical care to progress, through the development of vaccines to reduce the risk of infections, immunotherapies to target cancer and a wide array of other diseases, and anti-inflammatory medication and steroids.3 

Nutritional Components in Pineapple Beneficial for Immunity

Pineapple is a source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals all of which are beneficial to many aspects of overall health.1 It contains vitamins C, B1 and B3 which boost immunity, maintain the health of the nervous system, improve digestion and maintain healthy skin.1 Furthermore, it contains an enzyme called bromelain, which assists in the digestion process and possesses many therapeutic benefits.1 Bromelain has the potential to be used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardioprotective and even anti-cancer agent.1 

Bromelain has been shown to have a direct effect on white blood cells which are used to combat infections in the body.4 Due to this, it has the potential to be used for the treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.4 It can induce the production of signaling chemicals across the immune system which alleviates inflammation, and also acts directly on immune cells to reduce their activity.4 This means that it can attenuate inflammation, swelling and even pain in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, burns, and even cancer.4,5 Pineapple consumption is not only beneficial to provide relief in inflammatory conditions, but it can also be used to prevent inflammation across the body and maintain a healthy immune system.

Vitamin C, which is abundant in pineapple, also has a major effect on overall immune health.6 This is because it can increase the number of white blood cells around the body, therefore promoting more effective immune responses.6 Vitamin C also enhances iron consumption, which can reduce the risk of anaemia and improve the function of red blood cells.6 Furthermore, it is an important antioxidant, protecting the body from harmful substances and increasing the body’s resistance to infections.6 This can also be beneficial in reducing inflammation and ageing pathways of many cell types.1

Other than bromelain and vitamin C, which are the main immune-boosting components of pineapple, other substances such as vitamin B1 are also beneficial. Vitamin B1, or thiamine, promotes the maintenance of a healthy nervous system reducing metabolic changes and inflammation.1 Dietary fibre, which can also be provided by pineapple consumption, can assist in healing gastrointestinal function, particularly during inflammatory bowel disease, which exacerbates bowel function.1 Malic acid in pineapple assists in maintaining oral health, preventing plaque formation and enhancing immune function.1

Ways to Incorporate Pineapple Into Diet for Immune Support

Pineapple can be consumed in a variety of ways and used in many recipes.1 In general, it can be consumed fresh, canned, or processed into various food products.1 Very often pineapple would be processed and canned to allow for greater ease of access for the consumers.1 Furthermore, pineapple juice and fruit pulp is a popular choice with many people.1 Apart from that, pineapple is available dried, frozen, as nectar, and even pineapple shoots are sought after for some recipes, especially for use in salads.1 Pineapple flesh can be used as an ingredient in caked, pudding, pied, compotes, and garnish, particularly in sweet dishes, however, it is also used in savoury foods such as curry and meat dishes.1

Since consumers prioritize freshness and good quality of the fruit, the processing, handling and storage require precaution to avoid damage.1 The shelf life of pineapple can be expanded by storing the fruit under specific conditions and storage temperatures, as well as through the application of specific treatments, to reduce the risk of contamination.1 Primarily pineapples should be washed and dried thoroughly, however, industrially wax and fungicide treatments may also be applied to prolong shelf-life.1 The fruit is also held at cooler temperatures to minimize enzymatic degradation and avoid microbial growth, both of which could compromise the quality and nutritional composition.1 These conditions could extend the shelf life even up to one month!1

Potential Precautions and Side Effects

Despite its’ appealing taste and anti-inflammatory benefits, pineapple has been implicated in an array of adverse reactions.7 This includes uncomfortable mucosal irritation due to its acidic nature and bromelain content, oral allergy syndrome, and even anaphylaxis in more severe reactions.7 Mucosal irritation can present as a burning or soreness of the mouth and tongue and it can be bromelain-induced, or acid-induced.7 Similarly, oral allergy syndrome can cause itching and swelling of the lips, tongue and throat.7 

Even though these conditions are not life-threatening and typically do not require medical intervention, they can cause discomfort, and affect daily tasks.7 On the other hand, anaphylaxis can lead to death if not treated, as it involves swelling of the airways, which can lead to suffocation.7 It can also present as wheezing, coughing and vomiting.7 It can be treated by an adrenaline injection, but also meal plans and strict avoidance are recommended.7

Additionally, pineapple can affect drug action and metabolism. Those who take medications such as antibiotics, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants should be cautious when consuming pineapple products, as it can cause adverse effects.1 The components of pineapple, can also act on enzymes that are responsible for breaking down drugs to prevent accumulation, which can be toxic.8 


Pineapple can greatly complement the diet, providing many nutrients, minerals and fibre, all of which have major effects on overall wellbeing. These do not only improve digestive health but are also significant in the immune system. Components of pineapple, such as vitamin C and bromelain portray anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting effects, through the promotion of signalling pathways and white blood cell activation. 

A healthy immune system is crucial to keep infections at bay, control tissue repair and generally preserve health. Despite this, pineapple can cause some adverse effects, such as irritation in the mouth, allergic reactions, and drug interactions, so should be consumed in moderation. It can be consumed raw, canned, as fruit juice, and processed into a wide array of food ranging from sweet dishes such as cakes, as well as savoury curries, stir-fries and complementary to meat!


  1. Mohd Ali M, Hashim N, Abd Aziz S, Lasekan O. Pineapple (Ananas comosus): A comprehensive review of nutritional values, volatile compounds, health benefits, and potential food products. Food Res Int 2020;137:109675. Available from:
  2. Chaplin DD. Overview of the immune response. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010;125:S3–23. Available from:
  3. Nicholson LB. The immune system. Essays Biochem 2016;60:275–301. Available from:
  4. Pavan R, Jain S, Shraddha, Kumar A. Properties and therapeutic application of bromelain: a review. Biotechnol Res Int 2012;2012:976203. Available from:
  5. Varilla C, Marcone M, Paiva L, Baptista J. Bromelain, a Group of Pineapple Proteolytic Complex Enzymes (Ananas comosus) and Their Possible Therapeutic and Clinical Effects. A Summary. Foods 2021;10. Available from:
  6. Cervo MMC, Llido LO, Barrios EB, Panlasigui LN. Effects of canned pineapple consumption on nutritional status, immunomodulation, and physical health of selected school children. J Nutr Metab 2014;2014:861659. Availalbe from:
  7. Knox S, Lang D, Hoyt A. The many flavors of pineapple reactions. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2019;123:519–21. Available from:
  8. Petric Z, Žuntar I, Putnik P, Bursać Kovačević D. Food-Drug Interactions with Fruit Juices. Foods 2020;10. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Natalia Ewa Grzesik

Bachelor of Science – BSc Pharmacology and Innovative Therapeutics, Queen Mary University of London

Natalia boasts a solid background in pharmacology and neuroimmunology research, honing her skills through hands-on laboratory work and active involvement in scientific endeavors. With extensive experience in scientific writing, medical communication, and teaching various subjects, she brings a well-rounded expertise to the table.

In addition to her academic prowess, Natalia is a certified first aider and instructor, providing her with valuable insights into the practical aspects of healthcare. Her teaching extends beyond theoretical knowledge, encompassing vital medical and academic skills.

Driven by a genuine passion for healthcare and a desire to push the boundaries of research, Natalia advocates for the broader dissemination of scientific knowledge. She believes in fostering inclusive scientific communication, inviting everyone to participate in this expansive and crucial field.

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