E. Coli and Green Vegetables

A reader asked ” I just read an article that said the sugars released in certain greens help protect the helpful strains of E. Coli once they are established in the gut. Have you run across any information on this?

This is important, because CFSers are very low (or have none) E.Coli. With two E.Coli probiotics being available, Mutaflor and Symbioflor-2 it is important to feed them when you take these probiotics to get the maximum benefit. These probiotics should be taken immediately before having the vegetables listed below.

Researching this I found the following:

” the unusual but abundant sugar sulfoquinovose – SQ for short –  …Dr Goddard-Borger said the discovery could be exploited to cultivate the growth of ‘good’ gut bacteria. “Every time we eat we consume significant amounts of SQ sugars, which are used as an energy source by good gut bacteria,” he said.

“Bacteria in the gut, such as crucial protective strains of E. coli, use SQ as a source of energy. E. coli provides a protective barrier that prevents growth and colonisation by bad bacteria, because the good bugs are taking up all the habitable real estate,” Dr Goddard-Borger said.” [Feb 2015]

” Abundant in nature, the SQ is considered unusual because it is the only sugar that contains sulphur.” [2015]


Which vegetables are high? The articles cite three, but how much is in each?  Since we are talking about a sugar, we may be able to approximate from total sugar each has.

  • Kale (100g — has 2.3 g of sugars)
  • Spinach (100 g – has 0.4 g of sugars)
  • Watercress (100 g – has 0.2g of sugars)

There is an inference in the articles that dark greens have it — but I have not been able to verify that (or the amount that each one has). ““Every time we eat leafy green vegetables we consume significant amounts of SQ sugars, which are used as an energy source by good gut bacteria.” [2015]  

What Vegetables?

“Many commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables come from the Brassica genus, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, and Chinese cabbage (1). Arugula, horse radish, radish, wasabi, and watercress are also cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables are unique in that they are rich sources of glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that impart a pungent aroma and spicy (some say bitter) taste” [OregonState.Edu]

I was able to locate the following table:

Food (raw) Serving in grams Total Glucosinolates (mg) % of Total
Brussels sprouts 1/2 cup (44 gms) 104 0.236
Garden cress 1/2 cup (25 gms) 98 0.392
Mustard Greens 1/2 cup, chopped (28 gms) 79 0.282
Turnip 1/2 cup, cubes (65 gms) 60 0.092
Cabbage, savoy 1/2 cup, chopped (45 gms) 35 0.078
Kale 1 cup, chopped (67 gms) 67 0.100
Watercress 1 cup, chopped (34 gms) 32 0.094
Kohlrabi 1/2 cup, chopped (67 gms) 31 0.046
Cabbage, red 1/2 cup, chopped (45 gms) 29 0.064
Broccoli 1/2 cup, chopped (44 gms) 27 0.061
Horseradish 1 Tablespoon (15 gms) 24 0.160
Cauliflower 1/2 cup, chopped 50 gms) 22 0.044
Bok Choy (pak choi) 1/2 cup, chopped (35 gms) 19 0.054

Table adapted from: McNaughton SA, Marks GC. Development of a food composition database for the estimation of dietary intakes of glucosinolates, the biologically active constituents of cruciferous vegetables. Br J Nutr. 2003;90(3):687-697. [source]

What does PubMed say? Only 40 articles

  • “. Here we show that Escherichia coli K-12, the most widely studied prokaryotic model organism, performs sulphoglycolysis, in addition to standard glycolysis.” [2014]
  • ” All these interactions with carbohydrate routes might help explain the observed anticancer activity that glucose 6-sulfonate [sulfoquinovose] has in vitro. This adds to our knowledge of how vegetables rich in glucose 6-sulfonate can also act as metabolic inhibitors of pathways that are increased in metabolic diseases.” [2012]

Problems Eating the Above?

While browsing for information I noticed items like low sulfur GAP diet. Since E.Coli is the processor of SQ, and we know that CFSers (and other conditions) can be low, or no E.Coli — I wonder if the bad response to these foods are:

  • Due to no E.Coli to process them
  • Die off of bacteria that does not like the sulfur. (note that these chemicals are a known natural pesticide).

Warning: Low iodine levels does not play well with these and can interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis.