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Functional Food
|personal story

The Surprising Ingredient That Helped Heal My Gut (It's Not What You Think)

October 28, 2015

Up until about five years ago, the word gelatin would have elicited thoughts of a bright green substance that jiggled and could be cut into shapes or eaten out of a plastic cup. I had no understanding that the ingredient that actually turned the green juice into blubber, gelatin, does in fact have health benefits.

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I decided to look at my diet to help my symptoms.

After being diagnosed and suffering from a digestive autoimmune disease for two years, I decided to look at my diet to help my symptoms. The major medications were having more of a negative effect on my body than positive, and the alternatives like major surgery or lifelong immune suppressants were not the answer I wanted to land on.

I had seen things floating around on the Internet about grains and dairy causing inflammation and leaky gut, so I decided to try to eliminate them from my diet. This diet differed drastically from everything I knew, but it worked, so I stuck with it.

Within just a few days of an elimination diet, my digestive disease symptoms had lessened by half. I was able to keep food down and slowly gained back much of the weight I had lost.

Over the course of a few years, I started reading and learning more about the foods I was eating and what role they played in digestion. Gelatin and collagen continually came up as a something that could help heal the gut, so I started drinking homemade bone broth regularly.

I always heard that grandma’s chicken soup is the best medicine, but it wasn’t the slurp-worthy noodles that were doing the healing. It was the good old-fashioned homemade chicken stock that she used.

Not only was it soothing for me to drink when I had little appetite for much else, but the gelatin in the bones was calming and healing to my gut. The amino acids in gelatin feed the lining of the gut, acting as an anti-inflammatory.

How to get gelatin into your diet

If I noticed my autoimmune symptoms creeping in, I would drink two to three cups of bone broth a day and saw a noticeable difference.

When a hot cup of stock doesn’t sound appetizing, I also use gelatin in the powdered form. It's sold in two forms – regular and hydrolyzed collagen gelatin.

The regular is used to make things gel and doesn't mix into cold liquids well. The hydrolyzed collagen is water soluble and can be added to cold liquid without gelling.

When using a gelatin supplement, I believe it's important to get gelatin from a grass-fed and humane source. When I’m looking to get it into my diet quickly, I blend 1 to 2 tablespoons of hydrolyzed collagen gelatin into a smoothie, or stir it into warm tea or coffee.

I use the regular powdered gelatin in recipes like my Chocolate Pudding Pie or the Pumpkin Pudding I’m sharing below. Regular powdered gelatin can be used as a grain-free substitute for cornstarch or in place of eggs in some chilled desserts such as puddings or custards, and can even be used in place of eggs in some baked goods for those who are allergic.

Pumpkin Pudding (Egg and Dairy-Free)

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Serves 6


  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 teaspoons powdered, unflavored gelatin
  • 1¼ cups pure pumpkin*
  • ⅓ cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

* I used canned, but you can use homemade as well.


1. Pour half of the coconut milk into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Allow it to bloom (or soak up the liquid) for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining coconut milk, pumpkin puree, honey, and pumpkin pie spice in a saucepan over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

3. Pour in the gelatin and whisk until completely dissolved. Do not let it boil.

4. Pour mixture into a large heatproof bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the liquid. This will prevent a gelatin "skin" from forming on top.

5. Place it in the refrigerator for 6 hours or until set. The pudding will be almost solid when chilled.

6. Remove the plastic wrap and use hand beaters or a stand mixer to beat for 3 to 5 minutes on high, until smooth and creamy.

Serve with gingersnap cookies, or use it as a pie filling!

Photo courtesy of the author

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