When we think of gut homeostasis, we immediately think of probiotics. But there are other natural ways to help rebalance the microbiome. Garlic has been a favorite of herbalists throughout the ages, known for supporting health in a myriad of ways. As for supporting a healthy microbiome, whole garlic is rich in inulin, a prebiotic fiber “food” for healthy bifidobacteria. Including whole garlic in the daily diet has far reaching health benefits, especially over the long term. But besides inulin, garlic contains numerous compounds which support immune health. So, what about garlic extract?
Numerous studies have confirmed that aged garlic extract supports cardiovascular function. But new research shows it also supports the health and balance of the gut microbiome.
In 2018, researchers published the results of the GarGIC trial in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. In that study 49 people participated in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial for 12 weeks. The garlic intervention was Kyolic aged garlic extract (1.2 g containing 1.2 mg S-allycysteine). The researchers found that the participants in the garlic group had “higher microbial richness and diversity with a marked increase in Lactobacillus and Clostridia species after 3 months of supplementation.” The study also showed that garlic supports a healthy inflammatory response, which may explain in part it’s support of the gut microbiome, as well as the cardiovascular system. The researchers also concluded that aged garlic extract was well tolerated and had a high safety profile.
According to a 2019 review published in the journal Trends in Food Science & Technology, garlic is a powerful antioxidant, shown to support immune health, which is also related to the gut microbiome.
In addition to aged garlic extract, herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may also play a key role in rebalancing the microbiome. A 2019 review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine describes how TCM herbs can help support homeostasis of gut microbiota. The authors of that paper explain that this may be a key mechanism by which TCM herbs support many body functions including glucose metabolism, which was the focus of the review.
A 2017 review published in Frontiers in Microbiology described how many herbs and functional foods help support microbiome diversity, as well as supporting the secondary metabolites needed for microbiome balance. Foods highlighted in that review contained fiber, polyphenols and polysaccharides, and all of these compounds can be found in garlic.
Integrative medicine has its origins in a belief that “health begins in the gut.” Research has now uncovered yet more information on why time honored herbs like garlic support health in so many different ways. Through their influence on the microbiome, a single herb may support various body structures and functions, including digestion, nutrient utilization, glucose metabolism, immune response, inflammatory balance, cardiovascular health, skin health, bone health, detoxification and other physical functions. Through a combination of probiotics, herbs, and healthy diet, it’s possible to balance and maintain gut microbiome homeostasis, which has far-reaching effects when it comes to supporting overall health and wellness.
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