Yes you read that right, the delicious sweet tasting flesh of the nutritious, and ever so moreish pineapple could be digesting YOUR flesh…literally! Don’t be alarmed though, this is only in the mouth, plus it will only generally happen if you consume un- ripened pineapple flesh or the core (that hard lighter coloured part in the middle). There are some cases where people may have slight intolerances to pineapple, or even full blown allergies, so if this symptom persists and you notice other symptoms that may be indicative of an allergy then abstain from eating this food and visit your Doctor. The actual cause of the digestion of the flesh in the mouth is Bromelain, this is a group of enzymes that break down the proteins in meat and flesh…and this goes for your mouth too! Don’t get it twisted, your mouth isn’t going to disintegrate from the Bromelain in a single mouthful of pineapple, but the physical digestion of the outer layer of cells in your mouth can lead to a rather uncomfortable burning sensation, redness, inflammation and even some signs of bleeding in extreme cases.
Used during the tenderisation of meat
Bromelain’s efficiency at digesting flesh means the enzyme is actively used in order to tenderise meat after butchering. Bromelain and other enzymes derived from Papaya and Figs are harnessed and used to treat tough cuts of meat in turn making them more acceptable to consumers. The enzymes can be used in almost every meat including chicken, beef, pork, and even sea foods such as squid. The two most common enzymes used are indeed Papain (from Papaya) and Bromelain (from Pineapple), so this whole business about flesh digestion may now start to make a little more sense.
How to avoid these unpleasant reactions
In most cases a well ripened pineapple will be fine, and to be sure it is fully ripened look out for the ones that are golden in colour and not too yellow/green, and have a good sniff, ripe ones should have a strong pineapple aroma. According to Livestrong.com (2014), one of the best ways to speed up the ripening process is to turn the pineapple upside down and stand it on its leafy end for a few days. They also go onto explain that canned pineapple shouldn’t cause the same issue because the Bromelain is largely eradicated due to the pressurised container. Again, I would like to emphasise that should you experience persistent numb mouth alongside rashes, fainting, nausea and light headedness you should be sure to contact your Doctor, and of course stop consuming pineapple. Livestrong.com (2014) also explain that those who are sensitive or allergic to latex (found in most rubber gloves or condoms) may also be allergic to pineapple because the two contain similar proteins, meaning the chances of cross reactions are quite high.
Livestrong.com, (2014). Pineapple and a numb mouth. Retrieved 4th September, 2014, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/482836-pineapple-and-a-numb-mouth/
Enzyme Development Corporation, (2014). Meat tenderising enzymes. Retrieved 4th September, 2014, from http://www.enzymedevelopment.com/html/applications/protein.html