If you’re on a journey to heal your gut or help promote good gut health, this creamy nutrient-dense pumpkin papaya gut-healing smoothie is the perfect way to start your day.
MY GUT HEALTH JOURNEY
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have heard me talk about my gut-health journey over the past year.
It’s actually part of a bigger picture quest to halt any potential auto-immune disease (which I believe I saw the beginnings of in late 2019 in the form of spondyloarthritis). Autoimmune arthritis runs in my family and I’ve found out I’m predisposed to it through genetic testing.
Honestly, it’s a long story that I’d need about 50,000 words to articulate fully but it’s led me through quite the journey these last two years.
Currently, I’m being treated by a functional medicine doctor and after many different tests, on a gut-health protocol to (hopefully!) heal my leaky gut.
Over this two year process, I’ve learned quite a bit about gut health and have become a true believer it really is the cornerstone to good health.
As someone who prides myself on eating lots of healthy, whole-food, plant-forward meals with high-quality animal protein, it was honestly a bit of a slap in the face to find out I even had leaky gut to begin with. In my mind, I attributed that to fast food eaters and processed food stocked pantries, neither of which describe me or my eating habits.
I have many thoughts on the genesis of it but I’ll spare you those and just talk about where things are today. While my diet and meals have shifted a little bit since this “diagnosis”, mostly by just increasing my focus on consuming a diversity of plants, breakfasts have been the one thing that have changed dramatically for me.
Whereas prior to all this, I’d be eating eggs 90% of mornings (and man, I do miss eggs!), I now know they’re actually my biggest food sensitivity and have had to abruptly change course. Enter my breakfast smoothies and most recently, some variation of this gut healing smoothie.
GUT HEALING BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE
Anytime I have to explain my breakfasts to people, I always get the question “what do you put in your smoothies?”
And my answer is always: “it’d be quicker to tell you what I don’t put in my smoothies!” If you take a look at the ingredients for this healthy gut smoothie below, you’ll see what I mean.
I don’t want you to get turned off though by a long ingredient list. Most of these things are pantry staples if you’re already eating healthy and into gut-health.
And to be honest, short smoothie ingredients lists is my exact issue with smoothies from a store. Most are just sugar bombs in the form of fructose with nothing substantial in the way of healthy fat or fiber. At best, you’ll get some protein if you choose to add it (at an extra cost of course!) but that’s about it.
You’ll see as we go through the ingredients for this leaky gut friendly smoothie, most of the ingredients have a purpose whether it’s satiety, digestive healing/help or flavor!
WHY IS THIS SMOOTHIE GOOD FOR GUT HEALTH?
Let’s talk about some of the key ingredients in this gut healing smoothie and break down why they’re good for gut health.
I used to despise papaya. And honestly, I still sort of do but only when it’s room temperature. Sorry, but to me, it smells like sweaty feet and doesn’t taste much better. But I found a way to enjoy papaya and that’s by eating it frozen which makes it perfect for smoothies.
Papaya has long been known to be good for digestion. Its enzymes, papain and chymopapain help with both digestion and reducing inflammation. Often times, supplements will use one or both of these enzymes in over the counter digestive support formulas.
People in the tropics, where papaya grows naturally, have used papaya as a constipation remedy and to help fight symptoms of IBS for ages.
This article goes into much more detail about all the benefits of papaya.
If you have pets, you may know that pumpkin is often used to help upset stomachs in dogs. So it should be no surprise that for the same reasons, pumpkin puree is great for humans too.
Pumpkin is rich in fiber which can both help keep you fuller longer and combat constipation. It’s also a rich source of vitamins, including vitamin A which can be depleted for those with gastrointestinal issues.
An oldie but goodie is this pumpkin banana smoothie. If you want something simple, this recipe is like pumpkin pie in a cup and with only 5 ingredients.
You can also use butternut squash in the smoothie if you don’t have pumpkin on hand.
A lot of the literature about healing the gut suggests including probiotic rich foods like fermented yogurt. If you’re like me though, you may be avoiding dairy or at least cow’s milk dairy, due to its inflammatory tendencies in many people.
The good news is we now have so many alternative probiotic choices these days that didn’t exist even just a few years ago.
Fermented coconut yogurt, like Culina (my favorite brand for taste, texture and ingredient quality) is a great option if you’re avoiding dairy. If you can tolerate real dairy, feel free to use regular cow, goat or sheep’s milk yogurt with naturally occurring probiotics.
Probiotics are bacteria that populate our gut. We’re essentially made up of these little guys and having the right balance of “good” vs. “bad” bacteria is one of the tenets of good gut health.
Consuming probiotics via fermented foods like yogurt (or red cabbage sauerkraut for other meals) can help in achieving this balance. Just make sure to use plain unsweetened yogurt.
Added sugar is the exact opposite of what we want to put into our gut as an excess of sugar can feed the “bad” bacteria – not what we want to be doing!
You can also consume kefir instead if preferred. If you like kefir, give this kefir honey mustard dressing a try too!
L-glutamine is an amino acid and one of the most well-known gut-healers. Tissues in the intestine use L-glutamine as a fuel source to function.
In research, it appears that L-glutamine plays a pivotal role in maintaining the protective barriers of the gut (which is actually just 1 cell thick!).
We don’t add L-glutamine itself to this smoothie (you can buy it as a powdered supplement) but it’s part of the protein powder I recommend if you want to be serious about your gut health: Nuzest digestive support protein (that link gets you 15% off, or use code RTTK at checkout).
I started using Nuzest’s regular protein powder over a year ago because of their quality ingredients and transparency of third party certifications as a company.
When my focus on gut health shifted, I switched from their regular protein to their digestive support variety which contains L-glutamine and a specific strain of probiotics.
I love this brand for both its taste and effectiveness!
Collagen should come as no surprise as it’s been popular for a few years now as a gut health supplement.
I’ve long been adding collagen peptides to my coffee (or making collagen gingerbread cookies during the holidays!) for added protein along with the skin and hair benefits but collagen is also great for our intestines.
Collagen is a protein full of many amino acids that play a variety of roles associated with gut health.
From regulating levels of stomach acid secretion to aiding in digestion and helping to repair the intestinal lining, these amino acids do it all.
I love the brand Further Food and they do an excellent job explaining in the ins and outs of collagen here.
Ready for the weird ingredient?! Colostrum. Yes, colostrum as in the stuff you hear about from breast feeding moms and other mammals.
This is something my functional medicine doctor recommended I start daily as part of my gut-healing journey but it’s been steadily gaining popularity and exposure as a “normal” supplement in the the leaky gut world.
Turns out, bovine colostrum may improve gut health, help fight infections and promote immunity. Colostrum, whether it’s from humans or cows, is rich in vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, digestive enzymes and disease fighting proteins.
The protein, lactoferrin and the growth factors, IGF-1 and IGF-2 are what are believed to stimulate the growth of intestinal cells, strengthen the gut wall, and prevent intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut). It’s a powerful supplement if you can get past what it actually is!
I’ve found blending this into my daily gut healing smoothie is the best way to take it. It’s buttermilk powder-like texture is completely masked and there’s no detectable taste.
OTHER GUT HEALING SMOOTHIE INGREDIENTS
The rest of the ingredient list for the smoothie looks like this:
- frozen riced cauliflower
- almond butter (or any nut/seed butter like pumpkin seed butter)
- plant based milk and/or water
- psyllium husk fiber
- brazil nuts
- fresh turmeric + pinch black pepper (for absorption)
- vanilla extract
- maca powder
- pumpkin pie spice
In our how to make a smoothie resource, I call flax, chia and hemp my breakfast trifecta.
Seriously, I put this combo in everything I eat for breakfast whether it’s a gut healing smoothie like this, a bowl of oatmeal, millet porridge or even as a topping for pancakes and waffles.
The three seeds combined bring excellent healthy fats, protein and fiber to the table and I swear by them for satiety!
Psyllium husk fiber is another fiber source that I often use but feel free to omit that if you don’t have it on hand.
Let’s also talk about the banana in this smoothie. I prefer to use green bananas these days. Why? Because the greener the banana, the better source of prebiotics.
Earlier we talked about yogurt being a source of probiotics which are the bacteria themselves. Prebiotics are the food those good bacteria eat!
Green bananas (along with things like sunchokes, artichokes and jicama – now you know why I made jicama fries and this roasted sunchoke salad so recently) are excellent sources of prebiotics and therefore good for the gut as well.
So while they bring a little bit of banana flavor to this smoothie, it won’t be as intense as you’re used to with a normal yellow or brown spotted banana. Save those for baking and use the green ones for this smoothie!
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric should be old news by now. I talked about it at length in this Instant Pot coconut pork with turmeric rice in regards to the arthritis that runs in my family.
I love using turmeric in baked oatmeal and easy dinner dishes like this turmeric chicken skillet in addition to smoothies. You can throw a nub of fresh ginger into this smoothie too if you want a double dose of anti-inflammatory aiding ingredients.
All the other ingredients are pretty self-explanatory or optional (like maca powder and brazil nuts – although just 2 brazil nuts a day hits your selenium needs!).
Feel free to tweak the flavor hitters like vanilla and pumpkin pie spice to your liking.
WHAT DOES THIS LEAKY GUT HEALING SMOOTHIE TASTE LIKE?
This smoothie will be a wake up call if you’re used to sweet fruit forward combinations. But if you’re trying to heal your gut, it should come as no surprise that we’re keeping sugar levels to a minimum.
The good news is this smoothie is creamy and luxuriously decadent in texture. It’s thick and well suited to making a smoothie bowl (yay toppings!). With subtle hints of pumpkin and papaya flavor it’s not overly sweet but what I find to be juuuust enough to be palatable.
I always eat this as a smoothie bowl and drizzle with some raw or Manuka honey (another source of prebiotics) along with any organic berries or leftover green banana. I find the honey to add the perfect amount of beneficial sweetness to thoroughly enjoy the smoothie.
If you’re partial to smoothie bowls, this avocado pineapple smoothie bowl is another gut-friendly option (leave out the xanthan gum though) since bromelain, the enzyme in pineapple is another helpful digestive aid!
Once the ingredients are assembled, simply blend everything together in a high-powdered blender until smooth and creamy.
I recommend something like a Vitamix. I’ve had mine for 10 years and I’ve used it more in the last 2 than I did the previous 8 thanks to my breakfast smoothie kick now. There’s not very much liquid in this smoothie and the tamper proves very useful in getting everything to blend to a smooth consistency.
In just 10 minutes (most of which is simply gathering ingredients), you’ve got a wonderful smoothie perfect for breakfast and starting your day out on a gut-healing foot.
I can guarantee you this smoothie will keep you full for hours and things like eggs, bacon, bread and cereal will be a distant memory!
And for another easy healthy habit to add to your routine, check out this adrenal cocktail recipe.
Gut Healing Smoothie
- 3/4 frozen chopped papaya
- 1/2 cup frozen riced cauliflower
- 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/3 frozen banana
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt, either plant-based probiotic coconut yogurt like Culina or probiotic dairy yogurt
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk of choice or water, or combination of the two
- 1/2 cup ice
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon flax seeds
- 1 tablespoon hemp hearts
- 1 tablespoon psyllium husk fiber
- 1 scoop vanilla Nuzest Digestive Support Protein
- 1 scoop unflavored collagen peptides
- 1 scoop colostrum powder
- 1 small piece fresh turmeric root, about 1/2″
- 2 brazil nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon maca powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- pinch black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine all ingredients in a high-powdered blender and blend until smooth using tamper as needed.
- Pour into a glass or bowl and enjoy with desired toppings.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.