Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Food of the Day: Beet

Inspired by a post from Food Loves Writing, I am resigned to write about BEETS!... which I so covet and crave.

I am reminded of the benefits of beets in Crohn's disease, and any gastrointestinal difficulty, for that matter. Among other things, beets are rich in folic acid. Folic acid is part of the B vitamin family. B9, to be exact. B vitamins are very important to cell metabolism, and folic acid/B9 plays a crucial role in cell division.

Cell division is important in Crohn's disease because the epithelial cells that constitute the lining of your digestive tract need to be renewed or replaced every 4-5 days. The tumult of drastic pH change and absorption dynamics makes it necessary for cells to regenerate in order to function optimally. In the case of Crohn's disease, this turnover does not occur normally, due, in part, to a deficiency of folic acid.

Epithelial lining not only replaces itself regularly, it is also tagged with immune system markers (TLR4 receptors). TLR4 is one of several genetic components of Crohn's disease. It is a gene that codes for lipopolysaccharide signaling (LPS), bacterial recognition and subsequent immune response. The increased expression of TLR4 in the intestinal epithelium of Crohn's patients disrupts the LPS signaling pathway, which contributes to inciting the immune system to destroy its own tissue [Franchimont et al 2004, Brit Med J]. TLR4 is also known as TNF╬▒, the factor that Remicade and other biologics work to suppress.

What does this have to do with beets, you ask?! Beets are a solid source of folic acid, the B vitamin that helps your cells divide and replenish despite an excess of inflammatory TLR4 activity.

An additional benefit of beets is betaine (and choline, if we're being particular). Betaine is an amino acid that cells use to retain water, which protects them from high temperature and high salinity. This pleasantly laconic article by Slow, Elmslie and Lever is an excellent description of betaine's contributions against inflammation of the intestine [2008, Am Soc Nut].

If you are able to eat beets - aka, if you are not swimming in the maelstrom of a flare - eat them! Roasted beets, shed of their fibrous skins, are delicious and so good for intestines that need to build up a defensive. When I'm well, I eat them like apples... although a beet a day is probably not advisable.


  1. normally beets aren't my favorite but lately they really seriously have been hitting the spot. and by spot i mean my gooey insides. not sexually... (for some reason when people say hits the spot i kinda giggle on the inside. i shouldn't either)
    and my mom makes amazing pickled beets.

  2. that's very interesting. i should eat more beets. i love roasted beets, especially in the fall.