Ah, the amazing pineapple. It’s everywhere in pop culture. From standing tall as Spongebob’s house to serving as the inspiration of Ty Dolla $ign’s rap alongside Gucci Mane. Even the Kardashian sisters love the fruit, spending an entire episode drinking gallons of the juice, asking Khloe to judge their “down-there” smell, citing the theory that pineapple juice makes everything sweeter. And let’s not forget to mention ripe pineapple contains anti-inflammatory properties.
However you like to enjoy it, one thing is for sure, eating a ton of fresh pineapple with inevitably hurt your tongue and mouth and it’s not because you are allergic. Some people claim it’s the pineapple’s high acid content. The truth is that cute yellow fruit is actually eating the inside of your mouth. That’s right, that burning sensation you are feeling from eating raw pineapple is actually your mouth being eaten.
Known as the only food to contain bromelain (which is concentrated in the core and stem), an active protein-digesting enzyme, pineapple is used in many dishes as a meat tenderizer to break down the protein. When you pop a slice of pineapple into your mouth basically the same thing is happening to your tongue and roof of your mouth and that’s why it hurts and tingles.
And while it does hurt to eat, don’t let a little tingling ward you off of pineapple forever. Human bodies are pretty neat and can quickly regenerate new skin. A few hours after eating pineapple you’ll forget it even hurt. However the same cannot be said for people working with commercial quantities of raw pineapple. In large amounts, pineapple can be dangerous to handle without the right safety equipment. Maria Gloria Lobo writes in Handbook of Pineapple Technology: Production, Postharvest Science, Processing and Nutrition, “extremely high amounts of bromelain and handling can cause skin rashes, loss of fingerprints if gloves are not worn,” among other nasty side effects.
On the other side of pineapple, scientists have started a few preclinical studies of the main enzyme, quoting that the flesh-eating fruit might help in finding the cure to cancer.
If you do find that you are particularly sensitive to the enzymes in pineapple, there are ways to avoid it. Heat kills of the enzyme, so cooking your pineapple is a sure way to prevent mouth burns.