Hits and myths: no sex please, I ate a pineapple

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 10:42am

Q: Can drinking pineapple juice cause discomfort during sex?

The straight answer: Yes

The facts: It's not an old wives' tale. For some people, drinking pineapple juice before having sex can make for uncomfortable action between the sheets. Blame it on bromelain, a natural enzyme found in the stem and flesh of this juicy tropical fruit.

Bromelain has its plusses: it is loaded with antioxidants like vitamins A and C, and is thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant properties. But it can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Bromelain triggers the release of histamine, a chemical produced by the body that helps protect it against infection. But some people are histamine intolerant, and drinking pineapple juice can trigger the production of excessive amounts of histamine in the stomach and gut.

When this happens, the lining of the stomach can become swollen and inflamed, says Christina Spaccavento, a sex therapist from Sydney, Australia. This is why people who have active stomach or duodenal ulcers are urged to avoid consuming fresh pineapple juice. Canned juice does not usually contain bromelain because the canning process destroys the enzyme.

Oddly, pineapple juice is sometimes recommended for people who suffer from indigestion as a result of a low production of stomach acid. The bromelain in the juice is thought to aid the digestive process by helping to break down proteins, while also soothing inflammation in the stomach.

Pineapple juice is also moderately high in salicylates, chemicals that occur naturally in plants that protect them against diseases, insects, fungi, and infection. In people who suffer from salicylate sensitivity, pineapple juice can cause adverse reactions in the gut.

And if the pineapple juice is canned or bottled, it more than likely has been sweetened with cane sugar. This sugar, called sucrose, is associated with irritable bowel syndrome in people who cannot digest it properly. Sucrose is a double sugar containing both fructose and glucose. It requires an enzyme called sucrase to split it into two single sugars so that they can be absorbed into the wall of the gut.

When this enzyme is absent, or only present in low amounts, the sucrose will not be broken down and absorbed. Instead, it enters the stools and attracts water, causing stools to become loose and watery. Bacteria in the large intestine then start to ferment this sugar, producing excess gas and causing some discomfort in the bowel.

When there is a stomach upset, sexual intercourse is far from pleasant. Symptoms such as cramps, a bloated feeling, excess wind, flatulence and constipation are uncomfortable enough on their own, but the bumping, grinding, pressure and movement during sex can make them even worse, says Spaccavento.

Her advice: if you know that your stomach reacts this way to pineapple juice, avoid drinking it before having sex. Otherwise, try not to have sex until your tummy has settled.