Many people have experienced bloating following the consumption of apples, especially considering they are a restricted food on the FODMAPs diet. Although symptom flare-ups can be a huge pain in the short-term, I’m here to explain the paradox behind apples and bloating, and how even though they may be causing digestive symptoms in the short term, when consumed correctly, they are also an important key to solving your bloating and digestive distress, permanently.
So, let’s get down to business and discuss how in the case of bloating and gastrointestinal disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colitis, Chron’s, etc., 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 with gastrointestinal disorders.
Apples and Bloating
After all of this science talk, you might still be wondering, how do apples and bloating fit into all of this?
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, including bloating.
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.
Another fantastic benefit of trying this easy, at-home remedy is that apples are generally friendly to most elimination diets*, 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 (particularly bloating) 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 recipe discussed below was recommended in a lecture by Dr. Michael Ash, who came up with some great methods of food preparation and pairing to maximize the benefits obtained from this home-remedy.
Recipe for a happier gut:
- 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.
- Place the apples into a heavy-bottomed pot and add ½ cup water, 2tsp cinnamon, and (if desired) raisins for added sweetness.
- Cook the apples on the stove while stirring regularly until the apples form a soft, pulpy mass (mmm…stewed apples).
This recipe stores in the fridge for up to four days, and should be consumed at a dose 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 gastrointestinal issues.
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. Lastly, The addition of cinnamon was carefully selected due to the presence of compounds that inhibit inflammatory receptor activity, act as carrier agents to increase binding of active compounds, and actually help to control the rise in blood sugar that may be experienced from consuming the apples. I’m guessing the complexity behind this super-easy recipe just blew your mind! Luckily, Dr. Ash seems to have taken care of the tough stuff and all we have to do is stew some apples!
*Note: One hesitation that individuals with gastrointestinal issues may face when considering consuming two apples daily is that 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.