Eat Your Greens for Good Intestinal Health

. . . new research finds connection between a healthy gut and cruciferous greens

A startling discovery has, in the words of one of the researchers involved, “thrown open a completely new way of looking at gut biology.” Certain immune cells that protect the digestive tract from bad bacteria may be controlled by green, cruciferous vegetables in the diet.

Dr. Gabrielle Belz and her colleagues have found that a gene called T-bet is responsible for the production of these gut-protective immune cells, called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs). The T-bet gene, in turn, is influenced by both bacteria in our gut and by what we eat. Specifically, proteins in green, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, beet greens, chard, watercress, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale) apparently switch the T-bet gene on and may also assist it in producing ILCs.

ILCs can be found in the digestive tract lining, where they can certainly be very handy. ILCs help maintain a healthy gut by promoting the good gut microflora (probiotics) and also by healing small wounds and abrasions in gut tissue. They may even play a role in healing cancerous lesions, and are also believed to play an important role in controlling food allergies, inflammatory diseases and obesity.

So what’s not to like about ILCs? Certainly more incentive than ever to get several servings of green crucifers daily. (Hint: Making green drinks in your VitaMix is a great way to do it!)

Rankin LC. The transcription factor T-bet is essential for the development of NKp46 innate lymphocytes via the Notch pathway. Nature Immunology, April 2013;14(4):389-395.
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Press Release: Gene discovery reveals importance of eating your greens. March 4, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2013 at
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2 thoughts on “Eat Your Greens for Good Intestinal Health

  1. I find this article annoying, simplistic and misleading, but not for the reasons that most would suspect. It may be fine for folks with weak digestion, but like so many articles of this type, it doesn’t even talk about GERD caused by a hiatal hernia. Why not? Well, then the premise of avoiding PPIs doesn’t work very well and maybe not at all. This article is armchair quarterback advice that misses half the picture. If the writer actually had a hiatal hernia as I do, he would have written this article much, much differently. I had fundoplication surgery to fix the problem several years ago, and at the time it worked and I took no medicine and had no significant digestive problems. So my GERD was caused by mechanical breakdown, not bad habits or poor nutrition. Unfortunately, the surgeon’s esophageal wrap failed after a little more than two years and I was back on Prilosec, as I am today, hoping for a better alternative. Since I don’t want to take medicine, I would have surgery again if the odds of success were better. But the ordeal of surgery and pre-surgical testing isn’t worth it for only two years of relief. In the meantime, I use Prilosec. Otherwise, I would be in misery or mostly likely dead from esophageal cancer. To rail against PPIs without a serious discussion of GERD caused by hiatal hernias strikes me as misleading and irresponsible.

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