There's some truth to the saying 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away'... however, it may not be for the reasons you assume.
Today, I'd like to share some information on how apples can play a role in reducing inflammation while also improving gut health - two key factors to consider when trying to get histamine intolerance under control.
In fact, I'd like to show you a little recipe for stewed apples that can hack your health and fast-track you to achieving your goal of better balance and reduced histamine symptoms.
So, let’s get down to business and discuss how two stewed apples a day can keep the doctor away!
Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptors (AhR) and the Gut
A lot of research is being done on the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which has shown to be involved in the influence of genetic transcription and expression of factors involved in immune responses, inflammatory cycles, antioxidant responses, detoxification processes, estrogen responses and the cell cycle ¹²³. It’s pretty amazing that AhRs are able to influence so many responses in our body, and the determination of which responses are influenced is the result of which proteins are bound by AhR. This process is decided at its initial stages by a combination of physiology, microbial interactions, and metabolic breakdown of foods. Overall, this is a big way of explaining that science is gaining a greater molecular and biochemical understanding of how food is able to influence genetic expression, and reduce the inflammatory response in individuals expressing ongoing symptoms.
Apples and Gut Health
After all of this science talk, you might still be wondering, how do apples have such a big impact on gut health?
Apples are an excellent source of polyphenols that have shown the ability to modify bacterial populations in our gut towards a more favourable (non-problematic) balance. This has been observed to occur both by increasing the populations of beneficial bacteria, and suppressing several Gram-negative, inflammatory-inducing bacterial populations⁴. The benefits of these polyphenolic compounds have shown repeatedly to improve inflammatory responses operating through AhR, and thus make this process a highly interesting target for therapeutic use. The expected outcome of this therapy is a healthier intestinal environment, resulting in the reduction of gastrointestinal symptoms and improved gut health.
In fact, it has even been shown in colitis-induced mouse models that giving the equivalent dosage of two apples per day produced an anti-inflammatory effect identical to administering 15g prednisone, a synthetic drug used to relieve inflammatory conditions⁵.
Although it may seem like we're taking the 'long way around' here in regards to histamine intolerance symptoms and how this all ties together - the point to remember is that improving gut health and reducing chronic inflammation are keys in targeting the root cause of your histamine symptoms.
Another fantastic benefit of trying this easy, at-home remedy is that apples are generally friendly to most elimination diets* such as a low histamine diet, and provide a quick, safe and cost-effective method for trying to improve your health from your own home.
Additionally, although some people with gastrointestinal issues may find apples a tad rough on their digestion, have no fear, as I’m here to give you a universal recipe that applies to most people along the spectrum of digestive distress.
The super-simple recipe discussed below was inspired by a lecture from Dr. Michael Ash during my Master's degree, who came up with some great methods of food preparation and pairing to maximize the benefits obtained from this home-remedy. In dealing with my own histamine issues, I turned to this recipe and it became a daily staple in my healing journey.
Keep in mind, I've modified the original recipe slightly to accommodate a low histamine diet.
Simple recipe for improving gut health and reducing inflammation:
- Start by washing 6 organic apples (Dr. Ash recommends Granny Smith apples as being most likely to provide beneficial effects due to having the highest concentration of phenolic compounds). Peel and core the apples and chop them into small, even-sized pieces. Note that if you have strong digestion, you may wish to leave the skin on for higher polyphenol activity.
- Place the apples into a heavy-bottomed pot and add ½ cup water.
- Cook the apples on the stove while stirring regularly until the apples form a soft, pulpy mass.
That's it - when I say simple, I really mean it.
This recipe can be consumed at a dosage of two apples per day for a minimum of two weeks to begin achieving gastrointestinal benefits.
Easy, right? An amazing thing about this super simple recipe is the amount of scientific complexity and consideration that has gone into it. Ingredient selection was determined based on scientific research examining the amount of polyphenolic compounds contained in different apple strains was conducted by Dr. Ash himself to determine Granny Smith apples to be the most beneficial for improving gut health.
Additionally, stewing the apples allows increased exposure of the apple fibres to the lumen of the gut to enhance the efficiency of use greater than that of chewing, while also easing digestibility for those who experience digestive distress.
At the time of this lecture, the complexity behind this super-easy recipe kind of blew my mind. Luckily, Dr. Ash seems to have taken care of the tough stuff and all we have to do is stew some apples.
*Note: In case there is IBS present or an intolerance to FODMAPs, some individuals may have hesitation when considering consuming two apples daily, as apples are excluded on the FODMAPS diet due to their fermentable properties. It is significant to note that for individuals with fermentation issues, it is not abnormal to experience temporary flare-ups of symptoms associated with the consumption of fermentable foods. It is important to consider that although FODMAPS is designed to exclude fermentable foods for temporary, symptomatic relief, some of those excluded foods may be essential in the long-term for achieving a permanently recovered gastrointestinal state.
1. Stockinger, B., Meglio, P., Gialitakis, M. and Duarte, J. (2014). The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor: Multitasking in the Immune System. Annual Review of Immunology, 32(1), pp.403-432.
2. Qiu, J. and Zhou, L. (2013). Aryl hydrocarbon receptor promotes RORγt+ Group 3 ILCs and controls intestinal immunity and inflammation. Seminars in Immunopathology, 35(6), pp.657-670.
3. Hooper, L. (2011). You AhR What You Eat: Linking Diet and Immunity. Cell, 147(3), pp.489-491.
4. Shinohara, K., Ohashi, Y., Kawasumi, K., Terada, A. and Fujisawa, T. (2010). Effect of apple intake on fecal microbiota and metabolites in humans. Anaerobe, 16(5), pp.510-515.
5. Skyberg, J., Robison, A., Golden, S., Rollins, M., Callis, G., Huarte, E., Kochetkova, I., Jutila, M. and Pascual, D. (2011). Apple polyphenols require T cells to ameliorate dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis and dampen proinflammatory cytokine expression. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 90(6), pp.1043-1054.
6. Stanford Hospital and Clinics: Digestive Health Center Nutrition Services. (2014). The Low FODMAP Diet (FODMAP=Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols). Stanford University Medical Center.