Extracts from broccoli and plantain may help boost the stomach’s defenses against infection, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool in collaboration with Scottish and Swedish researchers, and published in the journal Gut.
The researchers hope that their findings will prove helpful to people suffering from a form of inflammatory bowel disease known as Crohn’s disease.
“With Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, [a] genetic predisposition teams up with failed tolerance, and you’re left with chronic recurrent bowel inflammation,” write James Dowd and Diane Stafford in their book The Vitamin D Cure.
“Your immune system can’t handle the bacteria in your intestines, so the bowel lining becomes a battleground where the immune system is constantly attacking bacteria that attach to it,” they write. “It’s like you have an infected rash inside your gut.”
Researchers examined the effect of fibers from broccoli and plantain on the M-cells that line the human gut. The cells were obtained both from laboratory cultures and from surgical tissue samples. They found that while the plant fibers helped keep harmful bacteria moving through the bowel, a common stabilizer found in processed foods caused them to stay in the gut longer, increasing the risk of infection.
Crohn’s disease is particularly common in countries where people eat lots of processed foods and low amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“We have known for some time the general health benefits of eating plantain and broccoli, which are both high in vitamins and minerals, but until now we have not understood how they can boost the body’s natural defenses against infection common in Crohn’s patients,” researcher Barry Campbell said. “Our work suggests that it might be important for patients with this condition to eat healthily and limit their intake of processed foods.”