High Fat Diets for Gut Health
Crohn’s Disease is an incurable condition defined by chronic inflammation and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract (GI). Crohn’s mostly affects the small bowel (ileum) and the start of the colon. More than 700,000 people in the United States live with this painful and often embarrassing condition. It’s not gender specific and most symptoms show up between the ages of 15 and 35. Researchers have yet to pinpoint an exact cause for Crohn’s, but it is believed to be a combination of factors from genetics, the environment and immune system status. When someone has inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s, good bacteria is mistaken for a harmful invader and the immune system is activated. The intestines become inflamed and unpleasant side effects including abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, fever and fatigue.
Why High Fat Diets Show Promise To date there are no diets specific for Crohn’s, only foods identified to potentially cause flare-ups such as dairy, high fiber containing foods, greasy foods, alcohol and spicy foods. High fat diets are rarely recommended to anyone. However, an animal study at Case Western Reserve University found that feeding mice a high fat plant-based diet consisting of coconut oil and cocoa butter had up to a thirty percent reduction in gut bacteria compared to the mice fed a normal fat diet. This finding shows promise in how gut inflammation can be altered for relief without having to rely solely on medications.
Bottom Line: This study is the first of its kind looking at diet, gut bacteria and inflammation for inflammatory bowel disease. Further research is needed to continue understanding the roles of dietary fat and gut bacteria; however, this is one mechanism that could help many. Most treatments for Crohn’s involve a combination of medication, diet and sometimes surgery.
Written by: Tiffany Tanksley, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern