Fresh pineapple makes my world go round. I wish could eat it all the time, every day. Unfortunately, I can never eat as much pineapple as I’d like. Why is this? One reason: it destroys my mouth.
Sometimes, after a few minutes of eating fresh pineapple, my tongue, lips, and the roof of my mouth become raw and feel like they’re burning. In fact, once the roof of my mouth bled. No joke, I go hard on the good stuff.
Some people think they’re allergic to pineapple. Others notice how sour a pineapple sometimes tastes, and think it’s the acid that’s tearing up their mouth. Although pineapples do contain citric acid, which may contribute to discomfort, the acid is not the main culprit.
With a little bit of research, I found the answer. Pineapple is the only food known to contain bromelain, an enzyme that digests protein. The truth is, pineapple hurts to eat because bromelain is digesting the tender skin inside of your mouth.
The pineapple is eating you.
Bromelain is most concentrated in the core (or stem) of the pineapple. When isolated, it is commonly used as a meat tenderizer (your tongue = meat). In supplement form, it is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Don’t let this stop your love affair with pineapple. Our magnificent bodies quickly regenerate new skin and heal our ravaged mouths. I’ve often gone to bed with a sore mouth, only to wake up the next morning feeling fine and ready for more pineapple.
There are also some ways to avoid the burning sensation. Heat denatures enzymes in any food, so pineapple that has been cooked will not hurt you (come at me, grilled pineapple). Some people say that cutting up the pineapple and letting that sit at room temperature will lessen the effects of bromelain, but that is a major underestimate of the powers of the enzyme. At room temperature, it can survive at least a week.
Your best bet (and mine) for eating as much fresh, raw pineapple as we care for without slaughtering our gums is to carefully cut out ALL of the stem/core. Learn how to cut a pineapple the right way here.