Scientists have devoted many hours of research into how the microbiome plays a role in the inflammation of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). While many studies suggest a connection between the two, we still have no cut-and-dried guidelines for people living with IBD to follow. But recent research homed in on the role fat may play a in gut health.
Alexander Rodriguez-Palacios, D.V.M., D.V.Sc., Ph.D. and assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, reported at the annual Digestive Disease Week Conference in Chicago on the role of a high-fat diet in reducing gut inflammation in Crohn’s disease. The groundbreaking study was conducted by Case Western researchers on mice with Crohn’s-like disease, by comparing fats found in plants with mice that were fed the fats found in animals. Changes were measured in both the feces and intestine, which showed that the plant fats, specifically coconut oil or cocoa butter, reduced inflammation, while the animal fats did not.
So, what does this actually mean for people with IBD? The good news is that most science also supports the fact that certain plant fats are very healthy for the human body in general. Avocado, nuts, nut butters, olive oil, coconut oil, and seeds are all sources of healthy plant-based fats. The standard American diet is full of animal fats, so substituting in some plant-based fats could be a good way to incorporate this new science into your daily life.
Remember: We are not adding more fat to our diets, but replacing one type of fat with another. It is still important to ensure that 30 percent or less of your total calorie intake comes from fat, unless you are told otherwise by your physician.
In the future, we may find that specific plant fats, probiotics, or other foods will be recommended to reduce gut inflammation, but we are not there yet.
For now, incorporating whole foods, foods rich in probiotics, produce in a rainbow of colors, and healthy fats is great for the human body, especially when you are fighting a disease with inflammation.
Talk with your doctor and create a food journal to better determine what specific foods you can tolerate while you are well, and while you are dealing with a flare up.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.