Gelatin is very good in soothing the digestive tract and healing the mucous membrane of the intestines. Both the naturally occurring gelatin in a homemade soup or broth, and also the store bought unflavored packets can be beneficial. Knox unflavored gelatin packets are a staple in my cupboard, and I always like to have some prepared gelatin on hand in my refrigerator. It’s really quick and easy to make with some fruit juice and boiling water. It makes a great light snack and a terrific low calorie dessert.
Here is a very good article about gelatin and digestion and how and why it helps. Some of it gets a bit scientific, but it’s worth muddling through. I think it’s very interesting to note that gelatin has been used for hundreds of years to help heal the digestive tract. It’s only very recently, within the past century that it has fallen out of favor due to the rise of conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. More on the role of gelatin and digestive health can be found in The Maker’s Diet
Gelatin And Digestion Gelatin’s traditional reputation as a health restorer has hinged primarily on its ability to soothe the GI tract. “Gelatin lines the mucous membrane of the intestinal tract and guards against further injurious action on the part of the ingesta,” wrote Erich Cohn of the Medical Polyclinic of the University of Bonn back in 1905. Cohn recommended gelatin to people with “intestinal catarrh”–an inflammation of the mucus membrane now called irritable bowel syndrome. Interestingly, the type of gelatin used in follow-up experiments done on people with even more serious intestinal diseases was specified as a “concentrated calves foot broth.” This form of gelatin would have been rich in cartilage and bone and presumably provide a better amino acid profile than straight collagen.
Today clinical nutritionists see more and more cases of dysbiosis–imbalances of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the intestinal tract. In that the fermentative disturbances that result are linked to allergies to grains and/or excessive carbohydrate consumption, it is fascinating to find that a researcher named C.A. Herter spoke directly to that point back in 1908:
“The use of gelatin as a foodstuff in bacterial infections of the intestinal tract has never received the attention it deserves. The physician is not infrequently confronted with a dietetic problem which consists in endeavoring to maintain nutrition under conditions where no combination of the ordinary proteins with fats and carbohydrates suffices to maintain a fair state of nutrition. The difficulty which most frequently arises is that every attempt to use carbohydrate food is followed by fermentative disturbances of an acute or subacute nature which delay recovery or even favor an existing infection to the point of threatening life. A great desideratum, therefore, is a food which, while readily undergoing absorption, shall furnish a supply of caloric energy and which at the same time shall be exempt from ordinary fermentative decomposition. Such a food exists in gelatin.”
Years later Schwick and Heide found that excess hydroxyproline-containing proteins in serum and urine provides a reliable marker of pathological conditions. They posited that the breakdown of collagen most probably results from an antigenic reaction. “Not so long ago the opinion prevailed that gelatin was not antigenic or immunogenic. However, with the introduction of sensitive immunological methods — particularly the haemagglutination techniques –antibodies against gelatin could be demonstrated. It was surprising to find antibodies against gelatin in human and animal serum of individuals who had never been injected with gelatin or collagen.” Schwick and Heide added that this occurs frequently in cases of rheumatoid arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases.
Though they offered no explanation for this pathological occurrence, many clinical nutritionists report that rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative joint diseases reverse when priority is given to the healing of the GI tract and of “leaky gut” syndrome (in which incompletely broken down proteins cross the mucosal barrier and enter the bloodstream and tissues only to be attacked by the immune system). Because healing protocols generally involve the avoidance of antigenic foods, Schwick and Heide’s findings might lead some readers to put gelatin on their already long list of foods to avoid.
However, gelatin is precisely what the turn-of -the-century doctors ordered, not only to heal digestive disorders and the intestinal mucosa but all allergies. Gelatin was even sometimes injected as a plasma or blood substitute. More recently, John F. Prudden, MD, DSci discovered that therapeutic doses of cartilage (which always contains copious amounts of proline and glycine) dramatically improved rheumatoid arthritis as well as other degenerative joint conditions and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Additional evidence comes to us recently from a team of Russian researchers. In an article in Pathophysiology, they reported that gelatin will protect gastric mucosal integrity, at least in lab rats subjected to ethanol-induced mucosal damages.
Doctors of the past also once knew the value of gelatin in treating celiac disease. In 1924, a researcher named Haas stated that the response of patients to a low-carbohydrate diet in which gelatin “milks” were given at the noon and evening meals was “striking and almost uniformly good results were obtained over a period of about ten years.”
Today many people have solved their digestive problems by following the food combining rules popularized in the bestseller Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond (Warner, 1985), which was inspired by the work of natural hygiene pioneer Herbert Shelton. Particularly pertinent here is the rule that warns us never to eat protein foods with starches. The reason is that they are supposedly digested on different timetables in the gut, upping the likelihood of indigestion. Dr. Pottenger, however, found that if gelatin is included as part of the meal, digestive action is distributed throughout the mass of food and digestion of all components proceeds smoothly.
A more recent theory that has helped many people’s digestion is laid out in the book Eat Right 4 Your Type by Peter J. D’Adamo (Putnam, 1996). Yet the very grains that Dr. D’Adamo has found to be a problem for people with Type O bloods are easily digested if soaked, then cooked in a gelatin-rich broth. Type A people–who typically lack the abundant secretions of hydrochloric acid (HCl) necessary for easy digestion of meats–find meats far easier to digest if they are served with a gelatin-based gravy, cooked in a gelatin broth or served after drinking a cup of properly made soup and, as we have seen, gelatin may even increase their production of HCl. Finally gelatin can alleviate the allergic reactions and sensitivities that Dr. D’Adamo has related to blood Types B and AB. Thus gelatin not only opens up the dietary possibilities for each blood type but can prove a boon for married couples of different blood types who would obviously prefer to eat the same meals.
Fifty years ago Pottenger pointed out a reason that raw food diets can be so effective in reversing disease and contributing to rejuvenation. “Man’s food in the raw state consists largely of hydrophilic (water loving) colloids. The heat of cooking on the other hand . . . precipitates the colloids of our diet. This change in colloidal state alters the hydration capacity of our foods so as to interfere with their ability to absorb digestive juices.” Happily for those who prefer their food cooked, Dr. Pottenger went on to explain that this digestive problem could be easily remedied by adding one-half ounce to one ounce of gelatin to a cooked meal of meat, potatoes, vegetables and fruits.
Edgar Cayce–the “Sleeping Prophet” whose extraordinary psychic readings have often anticipated modern medical science by decades–also had good things to say about gelatin and digestion. In his readings he recommended that gelatin be consumed to help the assimilation of vitamins, help the glands function better and to optimize energy and health. Particularly relevant was Cayce’s counsel that raw vegetables and salads be eaten with gelatin.
This is some excellent information. One thing to consider though is that some people who have issues such as colitis also have a slight chance of having issues with things like gelatin. I for example am one of those. I have some details about how I handle this on my blog at which you can feel free to visit.