Can Garlic Help Heal the Gut?

Turns out garlic is great for ulcers, food poisoning, and gut dysbiosis. Here’s why — and how to get more garlic in your diet.

Cloves of garlic on table

The phytonutrient content of garlic is so impressive that functional-medicine physician Terry Wahls, MD, suggests that two cloves are as nutritionally potent as a full cup of any other vegetable. Garlic has been shown to kill H. pylori, the bacteria that causes a majority of peptic ulcers, and research at Washington State University found that garlic was 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics in killing Campylobacter bacterium, one of the most common culprits behind food poisoning. (This effect appears to be attributable to garlic’s sulfur compounds.)

Garlic also contains prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds good gut bacteria. So if you are suffering from an imbalance of bacteria in the gut microbiome, know that garlic works as both an antibiotic (killing off hostile bacteria) and a prebiotic (feeding good bacteria).

How to Eat More: Garlic is extremely versatile. Add it to sautés and stir-fries; crush it into salad dressing; include it in sauces; enjoy it raw in pesto. Raw garlic delivers the most potent antimicrobial benefits. When heating, add it just before taking a dish off the flame. Either way, try to chop it at least 10 minutes before cooking it; this triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts its healthy compounds.

Cautions: Garlic is a high-FODMAP food — an acronym for “fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols.” This group of carbohydrates can sometimes trigger bloating and stomach pain. If you associate these symptoms with eating garlic, you may be intolerant of some high-FODMAP foods.

Consider trying a low-FODMAP diet, which temporarily eliminates foods with high levels of these substances. (For more on the low-FODMAP diet, see “Can An Elimination or Low-FODMAP Diet Treat IBS?”.)

This originally appeared in “7 Gut-Healing Foods” in the July-August 2020 print issue of Experience Life.

is an Experience Life contributing editor and a functional-medicine health coach.

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