- Three and a half cups of broccoli can help protect the intestine from toxins.
- Using broccoli to activate the Aryl hydrocarbon receptor in the gut can protect the gut from toxins and micro-organisms.
- Other vegetables, like brussels sprouts and cauliflower, may also have similar gut health properties.
Broccoli can reduce the symptoms of colitis and digestive problems and raises concern about the general dietary advice that suggests the avoidance of fiber rich vegetables during gut illness.
Regular intake of broccoli ensures the ingestion of phytochemicals that can help fight cancer by altering the gut microbiota. Now similar effects were observed in mice which were induced to get colitis.
‘Broccoli-rich diet can improve the tolerance of digestive issues similar to symptoms of leaky gut and colitis.’
"There are a lot of reasons we want to explore helping with gastrointestinal health and one reason is if you have problems, like a leaky gut, and start to suffer inflammation, that may then lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease," said Perdew.
Broccoli, Essential For Healthy Intestinal Barrier
Good intestinal barrier function means that the gastrointestinal tract is helping protect the intestines from toxins and harmful microorganisms, while allowing nutrients to pass into the system.
The key to the process may be a receptor in the gut called Aryl hydrocarbon receptor, or AHR. The receptor helps the body regulate its reaction to certain environmental contaminants, as well as triggers other responses to toxin exposure.
According to Perdew, hyper-activating the AHR can cause toxicity, but using broccoli to activate the receptor locally in the gut rather than systemically might help avoid some of these problems.
"What we were interested in is: Could you locally activate the receptor naturally at a level that would cause only modest AHR activation in the gut, but not cause systemic activation, which could possibly lead to negative effects?"
Broccoli Activate Cell Lines in The Intestine
The researchers used two genetic lines of mice in the study to focus on AHR. One line had a low ability to bind ICZ to AHR, while the other line had a high ability to bind ICZ to AHR. They added 15 percent broccoli to the diets of both groups of mice.
After adding a substance that causes digestive problems, the research team found that the mice with a higher ability to bind ICZ to the AHR were protected from a chemical that induced digestive problems, but the mice with the lower affinity suffered from the toxic insult
For humans, the amount in the experiment would be equivalent to eating about 3.5 cups of broccoli each day, according to Perdew. "Now, three and a half cups is a lot, but it's not a huge amount, really," said Perdew.
"We used a cultivar or variety with about half the amount of this chemical in it, and there are cultivars with twice as much. Also, brussels sprouts have three times as much, which would mean a cup of brussels sprouts could get us to the same level."
People with certain digestive conditions, such as colitis, are often warned to avoid too much roughage in their diets, future research may include determining the best ways for people to consume the broccoli or other vegetables with similar effects to receive the same health benefits, without causing any other associated digestive problems from the fibrous vegetables.
- Troy D. Hubbard, Iain A. Murray, Robert G. Nichols, Kaitlyn Cassel, Michael Podolsky, Guray Kuzu, Yuan Tian, Phillip Smith, Mary J. Kennett, Andrew D. Patterson, Gary H. Perdew. Dietary broccoli impacts microbial community structure and attenuates chemically induced colitis in mice in an Ah receptor dependent manner. Journal of Functional Foods (2017), 10.1016/j.jff.2017.08.038.