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Does oatmeal heal the gut?

Oatmeal is a popular breakfast food that is made from oat grains. It has been consumed for centuries and is associated with many health benefits. One area of interest is the potential for oatmeal to support gut health and heal the gut. The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms and plays an important role in overall health. When the gut is inflamed or imbalanced, it can lead to digestive issues and other problems. Oatmeal contains many properties that make it potentially beneficial for gut healing.

What is oatmeal?

Oatmeal is made from oat grains that are ground into a coarse flour. This flour is then boiled with water or milk to achieve the familiar creamy, thick texture associated with oatmeal. Oats contain soluble fiber, protein, antioxidants, and various micronutrients that may provide health benefits. There are various types of oatmeal:

Rolled oats

This is the most common type of oatmeal. Rolled oats are made by steaming oat groats and then rolling them flat. This creates the classic oatmeal texture. Rolled oats take about 5 minutes to cook.

Steel-cut oats

Steel-cut oats are made by cutting steamed oat groats into smaller pieces. This creates a chewier, heartier texture. Steel-cut oats take about 15 minutes to cook.

Scottish oats

Scottish oats are similar to steel-cut oats, but they are ground into a finer texture. This results in oatmeal that is creamier than steel-cut oats. Scottish oats take about 10 minutes to cook.

Quick oats

Quick oats are rolled oats that are cut into smaller pieces so they cook faster, taking only 1-2 minutes. They have a softer, mushier texture.

Instant oats

Instant oats are the most processed type. They are pre-cooked and dried, so they can be prepared very quickly by just adding water. Instant oats tend to have a powdery texture.

Nutrition profile of oatmeal

Here is the nutrition profile of a 1 cup serving of cooked oatmeal prepared with water:

Calories 166
Protein 6 g
Carbs 28 g
Fiber 4 g
Fat 3 g
Vitamin A 0% DV
Vitamin C 0% DV
Calcium 4% DV
Iron 11% DV
Potassium 6% DV

As you can see, oatmeal provides protein, fiber, iron, and other nutrients. But what makes it particularly beneficial for gut health is its soluble fiber content.

Oatmeal contains soluble fiber

The main type of fiber in oatmeal is soluble fiber. This includes beta-glucan, a viscous fiber that forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water. About 1/3 of the carbs in oatmeal are fiber, and about half of that fiber is soluble.

Soluble fiber provides several gut health benefits:

It feeds good gut bacteria

The friendly bacteria in your gut, known as the microbiome, need to be fed to flourish. Soluble fiber is their preferred food source. When the good bugs digest fiber, they produce beneficial byproducts like short-chain fatty acids. This helps maintain the right balance of bacteria.

It promotes the growth of good bacteria

In addition to feeding good gut bacteria, the beta-glucan in oats may also directly stimulate their growth. Studies show that beta-glucan increases levels of friendly bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.

It helps maintain intestinal barrier integrity

The cells lining your intestinal wall are held together tightly to prevent foreign substances from leaking across. This barrier can become permeable in some conditions, allowing bacteria and toxins through. Soluble fiber helps preserve intestinal barrier integrity and prevent permeability.

It reduces inflammation

Chronic inflammation plays a key role in many digestive disorders. The soluble fiber in oats provides anti-inflammatory effects that help calm inflammation in the gut.

Other gut-healing nutrients in oatmeal

In addition to soluble fiber, oatmeal contains other beneficial compounds:


Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber found in oats that forms a thick gel. This has been shown to protect the GI tract and promote the growth of probiotic bacteria.


Oats contain polyphenols, a class of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. The polyphenols in oats may enhance the growth of good bacteria.

Resistant starch

Cooked and cooled oatmeal contains some resistant starch, which functions like fiber. This also feeds gut bacteria.


Oats contain a small amount of inulin, a prebiotic fiber that selectively feeds beneficial bifidobacteria.

Overall, the unique nutritional composition of oats makes them very supportive for gut health.

Oatmeal benefits digestive issues

The gut-healing nutrients in oatmeal may provide relief for various digestive problems:

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

IBD involves chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Animal studies show oat beta-glucan can reduce inflammation in IBD. The fiber also helps nourish the lining of the colon.


The soluble fiber in oats gives stool more bulk and makes it easier to move through the bowels. This can relieve diarrhea by normalizing stool consistency and frequency.


Similarly, oatmeal’s fiber adds bulk and moisture to stools, helping relieve constipation. The anti-inflammatory properties can also help soothe intestinal irritation that contributes to constipation.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Oatmeal may help treat GERD and acid reflux symptoms by coating and protecting the lining of the esophagus from acid. The beta-glucan forms a barrier against stomach acid.


Colitis refers to inflammation of the colon’s inner lining. Animal research indicates beta-glucan from oats can reduce this inflammation and help heal the colon.

Leaky gut syndrome

Leaky gut syndrome involves damage to the intestinal barrier allowing substances to leak into the bloodstream. The compounds in oatmeal help strengthen tight junctions between cells and prevent intestinal permeability.

Oatmeal improves gut microbiota

Oats seem to provide favorable changes to the population of bacteria in your gut, known as the gut microbiota:

Increases bacterial diversity

Studies show oat bran enhances bacterial diversity in the gut microbiome. Greater diversity is associated with better health.

Boosts beneficial bacteria

Eating oatmeal regularly can raise levels of beneficial bifidobacteria and lactobacilli while reducing potentially harmful bacteria.

Increases short-chain fatty acid production

When bacteria ferment oat fiber, they produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. Butyrate provides nutrition for the gut lining and has anti-inflammatory activity.

Lowers gut pH

Oatmeal consumption can reduce the pH in the gut by stimulating bacteria to produce organic acids like lactate and acetate. A lower pH promotes good gut health.

So oatmeal does more than just feed good bacteria – it improves the community of microbes living in your gastrointestinal tract.

Oatmeal supports overall digestive health

The unique effects of oats on both the gut microbiota and intestinal barrier make oatmeal highly supportive for overall digestive function in the following ways:

Improves nutrient absorption

By promoting a healthy intestinal cell lining and tight junctions between cells, oatmeal enhances your ability to properly absorb nutrients from food.

Supports immune function

At least 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. Oatmeal strengthens your immunity by maintaining optimal gut barrier function and microbiome balance.

Relieves indigestion

Indigestion, bloating, and cramps are often caused by overgrowth of bad bacteria and inflammation. Oatmeal’s anti-inflammatory and prebiotic effects help prevent these issues.

Normalizes bowel habits

The fiber in oatmeal helps normalize stools and relieves both diarrhea and constipation, supporting daily bowel regularity.

Reduces gut permeability

Compounds in oatmeal seal the gaps between intestinal cells, preventing leakage of substances from your gut into the bloodstream, which can trigger inflammation.

Tips for eating oatmeal to support your gut

Here are some tips to get the most gut benefits from oatmeal:

Choose whole oats over processed

Whole oat groats or steel-cut oats have more intact fiber than processed quick or instant oats. The less processed, the better for your gut.

Cook it just right

The beta-glucan fiber is best absorbed when oatmeal is cooked to a creamy, moist consistency – not too thin or runny.

Let it cool before eating

Cooked then cooled oatmeal develops resistant starch through retrogradation which feeds gut bacteria.

Add nuts, seeds, or fruit

Mix in berries, bananas, walnuts, chia seeds, etc. This gives your good gut bugs even more fiber to munch on.

Use milk alternatives

Dairy milk can be hard to digest for some. Substitute with unsweetened almond, coconut, soy, or oat milk.

Flavor with spices

Boost the antioxidant content by sprinkling cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or turmeric into your oatmeal.

Avoid excessive sweeteners

Minimize added sugars, which can disrupt gut flora balance. Use small amounts of honey, maple syrup, or fruit.

Pair with probiotic foods

Eat oatmeal with yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, or other fermented foods to synergize benefits.

Stick to minimally processed oats and add gut-healthy mix-ins to maximize oatmeal’s healing effects.

Studies on oatmeal and gut health

Several studies have investigated the impact of oatmeal and oat bran on gut health:

Oat bran increased Bifidobacterium

In one study, adults ate oat bran cereal daily for 12 weeks. Oat bran significantly increased beneficial Bifidobacterium bacteria compared to wheat bran.

Beta-glucan improved diarrhea

Research in children found that eating oat beta-glucan for 2 weeks helped alleviate chronic diarrhea compared to placebo.

Oat beta-glucan boosted butyrate

A study revealed oat beta-glucan increased short-chain fatty acids, especially butyrate, in the colons of rats. Butyrate benefits colon health.

Oats protected against inflammation

Mice fed oats had lower inflammatory cytokine levels and less inflammatory damage in the colon after induced colitis compared to control mice.

Oatmeal improved cholesterol and blood sugar

In a trial of 10 healthy people, eating oatmeal resulted in better blood sugar control after a meal compared to ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, potentially due to delayed gastric emptying from oat beta-glucan. Oatmeal also lowered LDL cholesterol more than the other cereal.

Overall, most studies confirm that oatmeal and its soluble fiber components like beta-glucan can support a healthy gut microbiome and protect against inflammation, contributing to bowel regularity, improved digestion, and better gut barrier function.


Oatmeal is rich in unique compounds like soluble fiber, beta-glucan, polyphenols, and resistant starch that make it beneficial for gut health. It feeds good bacteria, increases microbial diversity, reduces inflammation and permeability, relieves digestive issues, and improves overall GI function. Choosing minimally processed oats and adding healthy mix-ins can enhance oatmeal’s ability to heal and strengthen your gut. While more research is still needed, the existing evidence indicates oatmeal is a smart dietary addition for anyone looking to improve their digestive health. With its stellar nutrition profile and gut-healing powers, oatmeal can be considered one of the healthiest breakfast choices around.