In all honesty the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, should really be replaced with a carrot a day. Carrots might be one of the best foods that you aren’t consuming consistently. Eating one raw carrot daily can be a game changer for your digestive system. Let me explain…
Raw carrots are made up mostly of an insoluble fiber, known as cellulose. Insoluble fibers are a type of fiber that do not break down in water. Unlike many herbivores humans do not produce the enzyme, cellulase, that is necessary to break down cellulose to be used as fuel/energy. So when you eat cellulose it basically leaves us in the same form that it came in which has its pros and cons...
The Pros -
Cellulose is the predominant structural component in plants and makes up the cell wall of every plant on the planet. The cell wall is the plant equivalent to the bricks that hold up a building, if you cannot get through the bricks you can’t access whatever is inside. Because humans do not produce the enzyme necessary to break down cellulose, you cannot access many of the nutrients that are contained within cellulose. For this reason, many vegetables, specifically stems and leaves, and nuts and seeds are actually not very nutritious because your body isn’t able to access the nutrients inside of them. If you’re a big fan of vegetables this might come across as a bummer, but insoluble fibers have a very unique quality to them….
The Cons -
When running properly the intestines normally act sort of like a strainer in the digestive system, filtering all the useful nutrients into our bloodstream and retaining everything else to be excreted out of the body. Due to our modern diets and lifestyles, many people live very stressful lives today which largely impacts our digestion. Stress quite literally shifts our body’s priorities from the “rest & digest” parasympathetic nervous system to the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system. This prioritization shifts more blood flow to our muscles and away from our vital organs like the brain, liver, kidney and digestive organs, ect,. The decrease in blood flow to the digestive tract on top of the increase in stress makes the wall of our intestines much more permeable for objects to pass through.
Again, because of modern diets many people today have a buildup of the so-called “bad bacteria” in their colon. If this “bad bacteria”, also known as endotoxin or lipopolysaccharides (LPS), leaks through the wall of their intestines into our bloodstream it causes the release of inflammatory cytokines. The release of these cytokines triggers an inflammatory response in our body, contributing to a buildup of inflammation over time. The endotoxin in the bloodstream must then be broken down and detoxified from the body through the liver, placing additional stress on the liver.
This results in a vicious cycle of increased inflammation, causing more stress to be placed on the body and the liver, leading to worse digestion over time. Low levels of systemic (whole body) inflammation are associated with a myriad of diseases including obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes ect,.
Read More: What Causes Constipation
Luckily, carrots are here to save the day… Due to the unique structure of the insoluble fiber in carrots (cellulose) and your inability to digest it, it “adds bulk” to your stools. This increases peristalsis, the contraction of the intestinal walls and decreases transit time, the amount of time it takes for food to pass through the digestive tract. This does two things:
- Less Fermentation - Transit time is the amount of time food spends in The less time food spends in the digestive tract, the less time available for food to ferment in the digestive tract. Fermentation in the digestive tract leads to the “bad bacteria” to grow and populate in our digestive tract.
- Less Bile Reabsorbed - Bile is produced by the liver and is used to help digest fats, but it also is used to excrete estrogen from the body. When digestion is slow, more of the estrogen excreted in the bile is reabsorbed through the intestines back into the bloodstream
Estrogen is commonly referred to as the “female hormone” and the female equivalent to testosterone, but this is simply not true. In fact women at the minimum have 5X the amount of progesterone compared to estrogen and in most healthy women it’s probably closer to 10X. Estrogen is a stress hormone and this is not to say that it is “bad”, but in excess it causes a host of problems in the body including:
- Increased weight/fat gain
- Complications with mental health including mood changes depression, & anxiety
- Reduced sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction & infertility (men)
- Associated with cancer & obesity
The issue is that today we are all exposed to way too much estrogens in our environment. Remember the BPA crisis a few years ago when everyone rapidly realized the damaging effects of this chemical found in many plastics. Welp, BPA is known as an endocrine-disrupting chemical and specifically is an estrogenic, meaning that it mimics estrogen in the body acting in the same way. While BPA is an extremely potent estrogenic it’s not the only one we are exposed to on a consistent basis. Other estrogen-mimicking chemicals are found in many cosmetic products, plastics, pesticides, even foods like soy and seeds contain large amounts of these chemicals yet we’re told they are health foods.
Coincidentally, estrogen is not only associated with increased buildup of fat stores, but it is also stored within our fat cells. So the more fat the more likely that you have a build-up of estrogen in your system. In today’s world it's nearly impossible to not have excess estrogen built up in your system because of our constant exposure to these environmental estrogens. In fact, biochemist Dr. Anthony G. Jay attributes the obesity epidemic to the abundance of estrogenic compounds found in our environment today.
Read More: Ray Peat Inspired Carrot Salad
You might be thinking to yourself, why carrots? What’s so special about carrots compared to all the other fruits, vegetables, and grains that contain large amounts of fiber. Three reasons:
1. They Are Roots -
When you hear the word “evolution” most people immediately think of the ferocious lions, tigers, bears in the true ‘survival of the fittest’ fashion. While it’s considered less frequently plants also evolved and adapted over time to protect themselves from their predators, herbivores and omnivores, like us. Carrots among other root vegetables didn’t really have to worry about predation from animals because they resided hidden underground, but thye did have to “fend off” underground fungus and bacteria. To survive in this environment over time carrots developed a number of antibiotic-like substances that “kill” the “bad bacteria”. In this fashion consuming a raw carrot helps to decrease the amount of endotoxin/ bad bacteria found in your colon.
2. Raw Carrots Are About 90% Insoluble Fiber -
Soluble fiber has basically the opposite effect as insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water into a gel-like substance when digested and provides the bacteria in the gut easily-fermented foods. This contributes to bacterial overgrowth in the intestines, which as you now know results in more fermentation, worse digestion and increased inflammation and intestinal permeability down the line.
3. Fiber + Saturated Fats -
Carrots contain free saturated fatty acids in addition to their high cellulose content. Both of these are capable of binding to other fats in the digestive tract like liver bile, cholesterol, estrogen, and regular bodily fat and excreting them from the body. These fats may also have antimicrobial effects, helping to remove the “bad bacteria” from the body. Lastly, the combination of the fibers and these fat may help to increase fat loss and reduce weight gain by increasing the excretion of fat out of the body.
A carrot a day might be the fast lane to better digestion, less fat-gain, reduced inflammation, lowered cholesterol and improved overall health.
My goal in writing this article, as always, is to provide you with logically-based principles that you can use to form your own conclusions regarding any information you may come across within this subject. Remember, I am not a doctor or medical professional. I just look at the science and put it into layman’s term, so anyone can understand it and are able to make more educated decisions on these topics as a result. I really hope you found this article interesting and if you have anything to add to this article, or any comments or criticism, feel free to reach out to me on our facebook groups (The Thermo Diet Community Group, The UMZU Community Group) or on Instagram @tylerwoodward_fit. Also, please feel free to share this article with anyone that might be interested.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time… be good