Is there a Connection Between Saturated Fats & Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

by Garreth Myers


Most people believe that the relationship between food and gastrointestinal diseases is quite clear. Recent studies show that everything you eat can lead to a cascade of complex interactions within several different systems, right from your metabolism, to your immune system. Your diet plays a vital role in keeping you well or perhaps even making you sick. Unfortunately, Western diets have the tendency to be high in saturated fats, which could lead to several health problems and may also increase the risk of irritable bowel syndrome.

Is there a Connection Between Saturated Fats & Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Yes, there is; a high consumption of saturated fats present in various food types could increase the risks of gastrointestinal problems, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a common disorder that affects your colon (large intestines).

The exact role of food intolerance and allergy in the development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome has still to be investigated. However, in a study conducted by Eugene Chang (professor of medicine at the University of Chicago) and his colleagues, it was observed that saturated fats, especially those present in full-fat dairy products, processed foods and baked goods can alter the composition of the natural, harmless bacterial communities within your digestive tract. As the balance of the bacterial species gets disturbed, an immune response that leads to inflammation and tissue damage occurs. Chang claims that this is the first plausible mechanism, in which the contribution of a Western diet to the increased incidence of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases has been highlighted. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases like Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are far more serious.

A diet that contains a high amount of saturated fat encourages the growth of the harmful bacteria, Bilophila Wadsworthia. High levels of this microbe are often found in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome or other similar intestinal inflammation. A high-fat diet fosters the growth of these bacteria. Saturated fats are hard to process and therefore, the intestinal tract depends on the sulfuric bile produced by the liver. Most bacteria find sulfuric acid unpleasant, but this is not the case with the Bilophila Wadsworthia microbes. This species of bacteria thrives as the levels of sulfuric acid in the gut increases. An overgrowth of these harmful microbes in the digestive tract can result in chronic bowel problems. To worsen things, the waste of the Bilophila Wadsworthia bacteria weakens the intestinal walls because of which the immune system can cause unintended damage to the tissues.  

There is no specific treatment path followed for Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, since health experts are not sure what the exact causes of this problem are. In addition to recommending certain dietary changes and supplements, doctors may prescribe an immune suppressant. However, the research conducted by Chang states that immune suppressing medications are dangerous and can increase a patient’s risk of infections. The new findings suggest that the condition can be improved by addressing the imbalance of microbes in the body.

According to Mayo Clinic, avoiding certain “problem foods” can alleviate the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and reduce the risks of this disorder. If you are prone to gastrointestinal problems, try to restrict your intake of dairy products, refined food, baked items, junk food and fried foods, as they contain high amounts of saturated fats. Some of the other foods that should also be avoided include caffeinated beverages, alcohol, sweets, sodas and sugar-free sweeteners. If you suffer from flatulence, it may also be a good idea to limit your consumption of beans, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli.

Eliminating foods that contain saturated fats does not guarantee that you will not suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There are several other factors that could contribute to the development of this disorder and a diet that is high in saturated fats is just one that we’ve identified.


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