IBD and Prevention
Not only is more of a WFPB diet beneficial in addressing Crohn’s and UC once the diagnosis has been made, research suggests that a WFPB diet actually protects against inflammatory bowel disease in those who don’t have Crohn’s or UC. We believe this is mainly because of its high fiber content.
Here are the details: Carbs are important in IBD because of your gut bacteria. When we eat dietary fiber, our gut bacteria (provided we have substantial amounts of the right ones, of course) break the fiber down into butyrate. Butyrate is well-known as a short-chain fatty acid that helps to decrease inflammation in and promote normal function of the colon. In fact, it’s even used in the treatment of ulcerative colitis.
The foods we eat have a very strong impact on the makeup of our gut microbiome. While diets high in fiber help decrease intestinal inflammation, diets rich in animal fat and animal protein lead to a decrease in good bacteria in your gut. As you can imagine, since the good bacteria is what changes the fiber to butyrate, decreasing the amount of good bacteria is pretty problematic.
A combination of 19 studies conducted on over 6000 people showed that consuming large amounts of saturated fats, monounsaturated fatty acids, total polyunsaturated fatty acids, total omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, mono- and disaccharides, and meat increased the risk of being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The more dietary fiber and specifically fruit a person eats, the lower their risk of developing Crohn’s disease.
These studies also demonstrated that eating a high total amount of fats, high total amounts of poly-unsaturated fatty acids (found mainly in fish, vegetable oils, and some nuts and seeds), high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, and eating meat were all associated with an increased risk of developing ulcerative colitis. Having a high vegetable intake decreased the risk of developing ulcerative colitis.
Tips for the Transition
If you’re considering transitioning to more of a WFPB diet, here are a few things that you should keep in mind:
1. Avoid simple carbs and processed foods. The absence of meat and animal products does not necessarily equate a nutritious, WFPB diet. It’s pretty common for a person who is in transition toward a WFPB diet to replace the meat with simple carbohydrates and processed foods. If your aim is to make a healthy transition, you should avoid this at all costs.
2. Variety is key. Be sure to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, placing an emphasis on whole foods. Include adequate protein and don’t forget to include some healthy, unheated fats.
3. The WFPB diet as a foundation. Based on the evidence, I strongly recommend a WFPB diet for my patients with IBD. Although a WFPB diet is associated with many health benefits, including being backed by research as having “the best result in relapse prevention” to date, adopting a WFPB diet can be a drastic change for many people. If transitioning to a WFPB diet is a difficult step for you, take courage in the fact that you don’t have to do it all at once. You may not be prepared to make a full transition now, but you can incorporate more plant-based whole foods into your diet and decrease your intake of the food groups we discussed as being problematic for IBD. What we’re looking for is a step in the right direction.
This content was originally published here.