You’ve been feeling bloated lately (and it’s not just the salty takeout you had for dinner last night). Or things in your midsection are feeling funky, but you just can’t pin down why. Your gut microbiome is sending out a cry for help—but short of loading up on probiotics, you’re at a loss.
Don’t worry, friend—relief might be as simple as tweaking your diet. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a 2018 study conducted by researchers at Kings College London found that prebiotic fibers found in certain foods might be more beneficial for the gut than others. Among those foods? Garlic.
Really? Pungent, spicy garlic for stomach woes?
Here’s why: Garlic is naturally high in inulin, a type of non-digestible carbohydrate or “functional fiber” that feeds the good bacteria in your digestive system. Basically, it acts as fuel for those bacteria to do their job better, which makes your gut function better overall. And per a study in Food Science and Human Wellness, garlic actually promotes the growth of friendly bacteria (bifidobacteria, specifically) in the gut, and prevents disease-promoting bacteria from growing at the same time.
Know that garlic will start to lose its prebiotic benefits the more you cook it (and raw is best for gut health), so try rubbing it on toast or adding it to guac or salad dressing instead of cooking it. On the other hand, too much of a good thing can have adverse effects, so start out slow (i.e., don’t just down whole cloves out of the blue).
One more important thing to note: If your bloating and digestion issues are caused by IBS, or if you subscribe to a low FODMAP diet (which eliminates a lot of those non-digestible carbs), garlic could be a trigger for stomach issues. Studies have found that eliminating foods like garlic can actually help clear up those issues, so it’s worth talking to your doctor if you think IBS could be in the picture. (After all, they’re the experts.)