Guava's Impact on Digestive Health and Gut Happiness 

  • Ciera Parsons Cardiac Physiology - University of Southampton, UK
  • Jo Witherstone Master of Science Cancer Care, University of the West of England

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Introduction 

Guava native to tropical regions, is a fruit that grows on trees and shrubs in the Myrtacace family. It has yellow skin with pink, yellow or white flesh, and is often consumed raw or in juice. Guava is known to be a very nutritious fruit, containing high levels of essential vitamins and minerals that are great for digestive health. 

The digestive system comprises the upper gastrointestinal tract (GI), the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. Its functions include: 

  • Obtain the nutrients  from food and drink, the body requires,  
  • Fuel processes for cell growth and repair. 

Gut health is increasingly being recognised to play a significant role in the overall health of the body. Gut microbiota refers to the colonies of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that live in the GI tract, and have been closely linked to human health and disease. Diet can significantly impact the gut microbiota and the proportions of good to harmful bacteria in the GI tract.1

Nutritional composition of guavas 

Fibre 

Fibre is a type of indigestible carbohydrate that is essential for supporting the body to regulate blood sugar levels, slow digestion,  reduce hunger and promote healthy bacteria in the gut. Guava is an excellent source of fibre, containing 5.4g of total dietary fibre per 100g portion. 

There are two types of fibre:

Soluble fibre is dissolved in water and is used by the body to help lower glucose and cholesterol levels. 

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and helps food move through the digestive system, to prevent constipation and promote regular bowel movements. Guava contains both types of fibre and is present in the skin and pulp of the fruit.2 

Vitamin C 

Vitamin C is known for its powerful antioxidant properties, helping to prevent cellular damage, which can lead to disease. Vitamin C also promotes a healthy gut microbiota by increasing levels of ‘good’ bacteria. A study found that Vitamin C increased levels of bacteria known as Bifidobacterium which has health benefits, such as fighting infectious diseases. Guava is a rich source of Vitamin C, at times reaching six times the content of an orange.3 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which is present in many foods. It is well-known for its properties related to vision and is also an essential compound in supporting the immune system, reproduction and growth development. While vitamin A is present naturally in some foods such as fish and dairy products, there is a compound called carotenoids, which the body is able to convert into vitamin A. Carotenoids are present in fruit and vegetables including  Guava. Therefore Guava can be a good source of vitamin A.4 

Potassium 

Potassium is essential for important body functions, and too much or too little potassium can lead to dangerous health consequences. Potassium is required for normal cell function because it balances the intra and extracellular fluid, using its close relationship with sodium. There is also evidence to suggest that potassium influences blood pressure, heart health and age-related bone health.5 

Guava and its impact on digestive health 

Constipation

The high content of dietary fibre in guava can positively impact gut health by promoting regular bowel movements. 

Constipation is a disorder which is thought to impact up to 20% of the world's population and laxative tablets are the most common over-the-counter treatment available.  The long-term effects of medication can lead to adverse effects. Dietary fibre is a natural solution to relieve constipation and can be consumed in high-fibre foods, such as Guava. Dietary fibre intake has also been negatively correlated to chronic constipation,  suggesting that a higher intake of dietary fibre can reduce the likelihood of developing constipation

The importance of regular bowel movements is recognised,  and frequency or changes in bowel habits can indicate poor diet or other health conditions.6 

Oxidative properties

Oxidative stress, where the body is unable to effectively counteract a chemical reaction, is known as oxidation. This process has been observed in people with  constipation11. High oxidative stress is harmful to the body’s cells and has been linked to cardiovascular disease. Guava's high Vitamin C content contributes to its powerful antioxidant properties to combat oxidative stress, and contribute towards lower risk of disease.7 

Prebiotics 

Prebiotics are considered ‘food’ to the healthy microorganisms which live in the gut and their prime function is to promote the growth of these beneficial microorganisms. Prebiotics can be naturally consumed via foods such as soybeans and raw oats, with the most popular being through plants. Guavas contain compounds with prebiotic activity, and research has increasingly suggested that prebiotics can alleviate multiple disorders related to the immune system.8 

Anti-Inflammatory properties 

Inflammation is the foundation of many chronic illnesses and increases with age. Inflammation is known to be a risk factor for many illnesses, most notably cardiovascular disease. The presence of certain gut bacteria has been associated with increased inflammation in various tissues of the body. It is understood that every individual has different gut microbiota, and certain microorganisms will have pro-inflammatory properties, whilst others have anti-inflammatory properties. 

Diet is a natural way of encouraging anti-inflammatory processes in the body. The abundance of vitamin C, and molecules known as flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds, present in guava gives them strong anti-inflammatory properties.9 

Potential treatment for diarrhoea

Guava leaf extract has been found to be effective in reducing the intensity and duration of an episode of diarrhea.14 Diarrhoea is a common health disorder experienced by most people at some point in their lifetime, Some people may experience diarrhoea more frequently, such as those with conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. Guava leaf extract can be an effective relief for diarrhoea and it is suggested that those with irritable bowel syndrome and/or disease could benefit from adding guava to their diet.8 

Potential role in the prevention of  gastrointestinal disorders

The role of guava in the prevention of gastrointestinal disorders has been suggested in many studies carried out across the world. Extracts from the guava plant were found to have antiamoebic properties, which means they can prevent vomiting, and ease stomach spasms and discomfort. An additional study also observed the healing properties of guava for gastric ulcers.6 

Incorporating guavas into a healthy diet 

There are a variety of ways to incorporate Guava into a healthy diet, focusing on digestive and gut health:1 

  • Slice on yoghurt—This is a great option for breakfast each morning. In addition to the health benefits of guavas, many yoghurts contain probiotics that are beneficial to the gut microbiota. 
  • Guava smoothie - This can be mixed with a range of different fruits to be enjoyed as a drink. 
  • Guava Juice - This is an easy way to incorporate guava into the diet 
  • Guava BBQ sauce - An exciting and different way to integrate guava into the diet by making a tangy guava BBQ sauce enjoyed with a range of savoury snacks and meals
  • Guava jam cookies - For anyone with a sweet tooth, this is a great option
  • Guava leaf tea - This can be enjoyed at any time of the day as a warming drink. 

Considerations and precautions 

As with most things, guava intake should be approached in moderation. Whilst it is a great source of nutrition, too much in the diet may lead to stomach discomfort due to an increase in gas. The gas is produced by bacteria that consume the sugar and fructose in fruit, causing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, such as stomach cramps and diarrhoea. 

Consuming guava may also produce a rise in blood sugar which is especially important for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 

Another factor that should be considered is the potential for contamination. Guava, while growing may be exposed to bacterial contamination. However, with tough outer skin, it is generally well protected. If the fruit's outer skin is damaged or bruised, there may be a higher chance of bacteria entering the fruit. The advice is not to consume damaged fruit.3 

Allergies and intolerance 

A food allergy to guava is uncommon, however, for people with a latex allergy caution when trying guava for the first time is advised.  No specific allergens in the guava fruit have been described, but symptoms of food allergy may occur in some sensitised individuals.1 

Medication interactions 

Some medications taken to treat diabetes may be affected by guava consumption. The fruit has been known to lower blood sugar, and Type 2 diabetic medication lowers blood sugar. Therefore, if guava is eaten in conjunction with diabetes medication this may cause blood sugar levels to drop much lower.1 

Summary 

In summary, there is an increased awareness about the impact that the digestive system and gut happiness can have on overall health. Inflammation in the gut and increased oxidative stress have been linked to an increased risk of disease, including cardiovascular and inflammatory bowel disease. 

Dietary changes to optimise the nutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds the body receives can have a vital impact on overall digestive and gut health. The gut microbiota, composed of different colonies of microorganisms, requires beneficial nutrients to encourage the growth and multiplication of favourable microorganisms, which can be obtained through a gut-friendly diet. 

Guavas are an abundant source of vitamin C, which is known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. The fruit's high fibre content also makes it favourable for encouraging regular bowel movements and minimising the chances of constipation or stomach discomfort. Guava can also be useful for irritable bowel sufferers to consume regularly. to aid in controlling symptoms. 

References: 

  1. Li XY, Meng L, Shen L, Ji HF. Regulation of gut microbiota by vitamin C, vitamin E and β-carotene. Food Research International [Internet]. 2023 Jul [cited 2024 May 30];169:112749. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0963996923002946
  2. Khalid W, Arshad MS, Jabeen A, Muhammad Anjum F, Qaisrani TB, Suleria HAR. Fiber‐enriched botanicals: A therapeutic tool against certain metabolic ailments. Food Science & Nutrition [Internet]. 2022 Oct [cited 2024 May 30];10(10):3203–18. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fsn3.2920
  3. Hazan S, Dave S, Papoutsis AJ, Deshpande N, Howell MC, Martin LM. Vitamin C improves gut Bifidobacteria in humans. Future Microbiology [Internet]. 2024 May 16 [cited 2024 May 30];1–15. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.2217/fmb-2022-0209
  4. Yang J. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis. WJG [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2024 May 30];18(48):7378. Available from: http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/full/v18/i48/7378.htm
  5. Zhou JF. Potential oxidative stress in children with chronic constipation. WJG [Internet]. 2005 [cited 2024 May 30];11(3):368. Available from: http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/full/v11/i3/368.htm
  6. Oniszczuk A, Oniszczuk T, Gancarz M, Szymańska J. Role of gut microbiota, probiotics and prebiotics in the cardiovascular diseases. Molecules [Internet]. 2021 Feb 22 [cited 2024 May 30];26(4):1172. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/26/4/1172
  7. Al Bander Z, Nitert MD, Mousa A, Naderpoor N. The gut microbiota and inflammation: an overview. IJERPH [Internet]. 2020 Oct 19 [cited 2024 May 30];17(20):7618. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/20/7618
  8. Birdi T, Krishnan GG, Kataria S, Gholkar M, Daswani P. A randomized open label efficacy clinical trial of oral guava leaf decoction in patients with acute infectious diarrhoea. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine [Internet]. 2020 Apr [cited 2024 May 30];11(2):163–72. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0975947620300188
  9. Tona L, Kambu K, Ngimbi N, Mesia K, Penge O, Lusakibanza M, et al. Antiamoebic and spasmolytic activities of extracts from some antidiarrhoeal traditional preparations used in Kinshasa, Congo. Phytomedicine [Internet]. 2000 Mar [cited 2024 May 30];7(1):31–8. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0944711300800197

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ciera Parsons

Cardiac Physiology - University of Southampton, UK

Ciera is a Cardiac Physiologist with clinical experience spanning emergency departments and clinics in both the UK and Canada. Her passion for the medical field led her to diversify into medical writing, expanding on past experiences as a writer, including producing an award-winning research project during University studies.

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