A 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition shows that broccoli sprouts can help you poop more.
This placebo-controlled trial was done in order to determine the effect of sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli sprouts, on the bowel movements of human subjects struggling with constipation. The study concluded that eating broccoli sprouts up-regulates the activity of antioxidant enzymes, leading to improved intestinal motility and defecation.
48 subjects took part in the study. They were assigned to one of two groups. The first group was instructed to eat 20g raw broccoli sprouts per day, providing 4.4mg/g of sulforaphane.
The second group was instructed to eat 20g of raw alfalfa sprouts per day, which provided no sulforaphane. The experiment lasted 4 weeks. The sprouts were harvested by a local farm and delivered to the participants’ home twice weekly.
Before the study, participants filled out a questionnaire about their bowel patterns. The subjects didn’t know if they were in the broccoli sprout group or the alfalfa group. To prevent other factors from influencing bowel function, the subjects agreed to not eat cruciferous vegetables, fermented foods, probiotics, and antibiotics.
Throughout the study period, the broccoli sprout group experienced improvements in bowel habits and these improvements continued for 4 weeks even after they stopped eating the broccoli sprouts. The alfalfa sprout group reported no change in bowel habits.
Did you know?
Major nutrients in broccoli sprouts include
- vitamin K
- folic acid
Why does sulforaphane help us poop more? What’s so special about it?
The answer lies in its ability to boost our antioxidant levels. Antioxidants help us poop more by turning off oxidative stress caused by too many free radicals. Free radicals are unstable and highly reactive molecules produced because of normal reactions occurring inside cells, and because of outside sources like pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation, and medication.
When we have too many free radicals in relation to antioxidants, it leads to a phenomenon called oxidative stress. When this phenomenon occurs, the body doesn’t have enough antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals, so it becomes overwhelmed. The unopposed free radicals steal electrons from other compounds like lipids, proteins, and DNA, turning them into free radicals themselves and triggering disease. Oxidative stress plays a role in the development of chronic and degenerative illness such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, aging, cataract, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
Oxidative stress can negatively affect our ability to poop. Sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli sprouts, increases our antioxidant levels, counteracting oxidative stress.
Other Key Findings
- Broccoli sprouts caused a decrease in bifidobacterium after the 4-week study period. Bifidobacterium returned to pre-intervention levels 4 weeks after stopping broccoli sprouts.
- There was a minor decrease of T3 values in the broccoli sprout group. However, subjects didn’t show signs of hypothyroidism throughout the study period.
- In another study published in 2013, Yanaka found that sulforaphane protects the small intestine from damage caused by NSAIDS. I recommend loading up on broccoli sprouts whenever you take a NSAID drug for pain to mitigate the damage it can cause to your gut.
“I recommend loading up on broccoli sprouts whenever you take a NSAID drug to mitigate the damage it can cause to your gut. “
Yanaka A. (2018). Daily intake of broccoli sprouts normalizes bowel habits in human healthy subjects. J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr. 62 75–82. 10.3164/jcbn.17-42
Yanaka A, Sato J, Ohmori S. Sulforaphane protects small intestinal mucosa from aspirin/NSAID-induced injury by enhancing host defense systems against oxidative stress and by inhibiting mucosal invasion of anaerobic enterobacteria. Curr Pharm Des. 2013;19:157–162.