Amla, also known as Indian Gooseberry, has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda. The plant has round and translucent yellow-green berries, with a unique blend of sour, bitter, and astringent tastes and a sweet aftertaste.
Traditionally, Amla has been used in palpitation, fatigue, vertigo, and disorders of the digestive system, lungs, metabolism, bleeding, ageing, and inflammation.
Modern research has seen the benefits of Amla as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and protective of the liver, heart, brain, kidney, hair, skin, eyes, and immunity.
In this article, I will throw some light on what the latest “Western” science has found about the benefits of Amla for the digestive system.
Disclaimer: Irrespective of what Hippocrates said, food is not medicine; the two serve different purposes. Do not consume any food item in lieu of your medications. Use the information in this article to learn about the benefits, read more from the reference links, and have a healthy discussion with your doctor. Only after her consent can you incorporate that food into your diet; don’t do it on your own.
Nutrients in Amla
Amla is a rich source of vitamin C. It also has many potent plant compounds such as:
- Quercetin: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-cancer, brain-protective, and heart protective.
- Kaempferol: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antimicrobial, and protective of the heart, brain, bones, liver, lungs and digestive system.
- Gallic acid: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-obesity, and anti-microbial. Helps in digestive, heart and brain disorders.
- Ellagic acid: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and protective of the brain, heart, skin, and immunity.
Amla and Digestive System Benefits
The most beneficial properties of Amla come from its rich nutrient profile.
Amla in Constipation
- Amla is rich in a water-soluble dietary fibre called pectin, which has multiple digestive benefits. It increases bowel movement and bulks up stools. Both of these help relieve constipation.
- While not directly related to digestive health, pectin also helps reduce stomach emptying time and sugar absorption (both useful in diabetes), and cholesterol absorption in the intestines (beneficial in heart disease).
Amla in Inflammatory Conditions of Intestines
- Pectin is digested by healthy bacteria in the large intestine (colon). In the process, they produce something called Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs), which are known to have many health benefits. SCFAs are found to reduce inflammation in the intestines, which helps in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
- Similarly, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Amla help reduce the severity of symptoms in IBD and other inflammatory disorders of the intestines.
Amla in Diarrhoea and Stomach Cramps
Amla has anti-diarrhoeal as well as anti-spasm properties, the latter helping prevent stomach cramps. Scientists have explanations for the same, which are too technical for this article.
Amla in Nutrient Absorption
- Vitamin C helps increase the absorption of iron and selenium. Eating Amla may help improve such absorption.
- However, one should not overdo Amla consumption since vitamin C reduces the absorption of other minerals such as copper, nickel, and manganese.
Amla in Acidity and GERD
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common digestive system disorder, caused by the food in the stomach moving back into the food pipe—oesophagus—leading to chest pain (acidity) and regurgitation.
Since Amla is sour and pungent, some people think that it will worsen the acidity (heartburn) symptoms. However, research shows that Amla reduces the frequency and severity of acidity in people who suffer from GERD.
Amla in Stomach Ulcers
- Amla may help prevent stomach ulcers from developing. It can also be useful in healing them. There are two main causes of stomach ulcers:
- Bacteria: Half of the ulcers are caused by Helicobacter pylori. Amla blocks the growth of these bacteria.
- Pain-killer medicines: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are commonly prescribed for pain and inflammation control, are found to cause the other half of the ulcers. Amla helps in healing ulcers caused by NSAIDs.
- Another study found that Amla improves ulcer-protective factors while reducing ulcer-worsening factors.
How Much Amla Should You Consume?
- There is no specific dose for amla and its variants.
- Most medicinal benefits of Amla were found in around 500 mg/kg of body weight a day in animal studies. While it is difficult to extrapolate the same to humans, 500 mg/kg implies 40 grams of Amla a day for an 80-kg person.
- Experts advise consuming one to two amla fruits (a hundred grams) a day.
- You may instead take one teaspoon of amla powder or six to eight teaspoons of amla juice daily.
- It is a good idea to split the intake into two equal doses daily.
Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).
To Read More
- On this Website: Why Nutrient Clinical Trials Should Be Interpreted Differently From Medicine Clinical Trials?
- WebMD: Health Benefits of Amla (Indian Gooseberry)
- Healthline: 6 Promising Benefits of Drinking Amla Juice
First Published on: 25th June 2023
Image Credit: Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay
Last Updated on: 10th July 2023