The Effects of Celery on Your Digestive System

Not just a diet food, celery provides you with many benefits for a healthy digestive system when you bite into this crunchy, crisp vegetable. Loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, celery nutrition is found in every part of the plant, including the stalks, the seeds and the leaves.

Celery can help keep your bowels healthy and may reduce the incidence of diseases of the digestive tract. (Image: Johner Images/Johner Images Royalty-Free/GettyImages)

Celery has long been considered an effective home remedy for bladder disorders, urinary tract infections and kidney problems. And the antioxidants in celery help keep your gastrointestinal (GI) tract free from inflammation and disease.

Celery Nutrition

Fiber is well known for its digestive benefits in helping to keep your bowel movements regular. One cup of chopped celery, or about 100 grams, provides 1.6 grams, or 6 percent, of your daily requirements for fiber.

Dietary fiber is food that your body cannot absorb or digest. It remains as roughage, relatively intact, as it helps your digested food pass through your stomach to your small intestine, then colon and out of your body.

Fiber is helpful in avoiding constipation and irregularity by increasing the bulk of your stool, softening it and making it easier to pass. The fiber in celery can also help prevent diarrhea by absorbing water and solidifying your stool with roughage.

Fiber may help decrease your risk of developing hemorrhoids or diverticulitis, according to Mayo Clinic. In addition, a study found that a high-fiber diet may lower your risk for colorectal cancer, as published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2015.

Banishing Bloating

The fiber in celery is not the only thing that contributes to proper digestion. Your digestive health depends on the activity in your stomach, intestines and your colon, and these tissues need B vitamins to function properly. The combined efforts of the B vitamins are essential for helping your body use fats and protein efficiently for digestive health.

Celery contains 2 percent daily value (DV) per cup of niacin (vitamin B3). Niacin is necessary for the metabolism of food, including the production of gastric juices and the secretion of bile needed to digest fat. One of the symptoms of a niacin deficiency involves the digestive system and may include inflammation of the mouth, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.

The vitamin B6 in one cup of celery contributes 4 percent to your DV. Vitamin B6 aids digestion by helping your body to process proteins from the food in your diet

Celery contains 2 percent DV per cup for pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). Penn State says pantothenic acid is important for maintaining a healthy digestive tract.

Without riboflavin (vitamin B2), you may have trouble digesting food. Celery provides 3 percent DV of riboflavin per cup, which helps keep the mucosal lining of your digestive tract healthy. Riboflavin also aids in the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in the foods you eat.

The thiamine (vitamin B1) in celery helps with the production of hydrochloric acid in your stomach. Low stomach acid impedes your body's ability to properly digest food and can lead to uncomfortable bloating, gas and poor bowel movements. Pharmaca says thiamine helps maintain muscle tone in the walls of your digestive tract and prevents constipation.

Other GI-Helpful Nutrients

In addition to the B vitamins, celery contains some other nutrients important to the health of your digestive system.

Celery is a good source of vitamin K and supplies 37 percent of your DV in just one cup. Although a deficiency of vitamin K is rare, if you have certain medical conditions or take specific medications, you may be at risk. A vitamin K deficiency causes symptoms like GI bleeding, according to the Merck Manual.

Some minerals in celery can be of benefit to your digestive system. One of the functions of manganese is its critical role in digestion. Calcium intake is adversely associated with your risk of colorectal cancer, says a BMJ Cancer study.

Celery seeds are especially high in calcium, providing 11 percent DV per tablespoon. A potassium deficiency can cause digestive disturbances with symptoms involving the GI tract and kidneys, such as constipation, abdominal cramps, bloating and passing large amounts of urine.

Antioxidants Protect Your GI Tract

Antioxidants in celery help protect the cells in your entire digestive tract, like your esophagus, stomach, intestines, rectum and all the accessory digestive organs, by attacking free radicals produced by normal metabolic processes in your body. Free radicals cause oxidation that damages your cells and can cause inflammation in any part of your digestive tract.

Celery contains an extraordinary number of antioxidant compounds, including polyphenols, vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, copper, zinc, selenium, magnesium and dozens of additional compounds. This is likely the reason that celery is the most widely used plant for medicinal purposes.

The Journal of Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a study in 2017 that analyzed the antioxidant activity of celery. The report stated that celery (stems, seeds and leaves) has antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, which prevent many chronic diseases in rats, including GI conditions such as urinary tract obstruction, liver disease and colic.

Celery Helps Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary tract infections usually result from a bacterial infection and can affect any part of your urinary system: the kidneys, bladder or urethra. Celery works as a natural remedy for urinary infections due to its diuretic properties. Celery can help flush out your bladder by boosting urine production, which may inhibit the growth of bacteria by making it harder for it to cling to your urinary tract walls, says Premier Medical Group.

Due to antibiotic resistance and potential side effects of drugs, researchers investigated the potential plants may have on treating infection. Several foods, including celery extract, were used to test the effectiveness against urinary tract infection.

Results of the study, published in the International Journal of Advanced Research in 2014, found that plants effectively inhibited certain bacteria and could be a safer option with fewer side effects than antibiotics for the treatment of urinary tract and other infections. However, if you suspect you have a urinary tract infection, you should consult with your doctor first before self-treating with celery.

Celery Reduces Water Retention

Water or fluid retention refers to excessive fluid in your circulatory system, body tissues or digestive system. Some symptoms you may experience with water retention are abdominal discomfort such as stomach bloating, digestive upset or weight gain.

Eating celery for its natural diuretic properties is a common home remedy for alleviating mild fluid retention. One reason for its effectiveness may be from celery's content of vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and calcium, which are minerals known to help excrete excess fluids, according to the BetterHealth Channel. In addition, sodium, potassium and magnesium are required to maintain the body's fluid balance, and celery contains all of those electrolytes.

Chomp on Celery to Lose Weight

Snacking on a stalk of celery is the perfect food choice when you're trying to lose weight. With only 6 calories per stalk, celery won't contribute much to the recommended daily intake of 1,600 to 2,400 calories for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories for adult men. The key to shedding pounds is to fill your stomach with fewer calories than your body burns.

Since raw celery contains 96 percent water, eating a stalk or two will add bulk to your stomach, making you feel full without adding the calories. And proper hydration for your entire digestive system is important in weight loss because you often mistake hunger for thirst, and that might prompt you to eat more.

Celery scores a 4.5 on the fullness factor scale, a scale of 0 to 5 that compares the satiety of food to bread. Celery's high value means that you are more likely to satisfy your hunger by eating celery than a slice of white bread, which has a factor of 1.8. This makes celery a good food to stop the rumble in your stomach and won't sabotage your weight-loss plans.

A trend that has become popular is juicing celery for laxative or weight-loss benefits. Although you get the same nutritional advantage as eating whole celery, you miss out on the benefits of fiber. And the saving in calories is negligible.

GI Cancer Protection

It has been well established that flavonoids in plant-based foods may decrease the risk of many kinds of cancer, especially GI cancers. Celery extract is often used for studies relating to cancer research because celery stalks and seeds contain a high level of flavonoids, more specifically, apigenin.

In a meta-analysis in 2018, more than 17,000 cases were studied to determine the potential effect that intake of flavonoids had on GI cancer. The results, published in the journal Nutrients, found that a high intake of the kind of flavone in celery, apigenin, may decrease the risk of rectal cancer.

Apigenin was also shown to kill pancreatic cancer cells by inhibiting an enzyme when used as a pretreatment, according to the Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science.

A study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2013 examined the role apigenin plays on the formation of pancreatic tumors. Your pancreas aids in digestion by producing enzymes and hormones that help break down foods. The conclusion of the study found that the flavonoid apigenin had a protective role in pancreatic cancer.

Celery Helps Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers to develop in your digestive tract. The condition affects the innermost lining of your large intestine and rectum, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal and rectal pain, cramping and urgency to defecate.

The antioxidants in celery are helpful at scavenging free radicals and may control the inflammation that occurs in conditions such as colitis and stomach ulcers, which are sores that develop in the stomach from bacteria or excessive use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Celery also contains pectin-based polysaccharides that possess properties that may help modulate stomach secretions and mucosa in the colon and rectum. According to a study from the SMGroup in 2016, an extract from celery seeds has been shown to protect and reduce the risk of gastric irritation caused by NSAIDs.

An analysis of studies from the past 24 years was conducted to identify new anti-ulcer therapies from natural sources to replace steroids. Some of the data were collected using celery seed extract because of its potent antibacterial effects. The animal study published in Journal of Saudi Chemical Society in 2013 found many plant extracts, including celery, had protective effects against gastric ulcers by preventing oxidative stress.

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