Processed foods and IBD

When you suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), it can be a minefield knowing what to eat. Various foods can trigger a nasty flare-up, and it is often through trial and error that you learn what to avoid.

Processed foods are well known to trigger unpleasant symptoms for many people living with IBD. So, what is it about these types of foods that can worsen the condition?

What are processed foods?

Processed foods are foods that have been changed from their natural state. That could be anything from being pre-chopped and baked, to having chemicals added to prolong their shelf life.

Contrary to popular belief, not all processed foods are bad for you. For example, a bag of frozen vegetables is considered processed food, yet they contain nothing but nutrients and goodness.

It is the foods that have been chemically altered that pose the biggest risks to our health. You can tell the bad from the good, processed foods by reading the label on the packaging.

Why do processed foods trigger IBD symptoms?

There have been several studies that have shown a clear link between the chemicals in processed foods and a flare up of IBD symptoms.

In 2015, one study found that emulsifiers increase the risk of developing IBD. These are found in many processed foods, and they are basically molecules that bind oil and water mixtures together.

They are found in products such as ice cream and mayonnaise. Not all emulsifiers are bad, with natural ones including honey and lecithin.

Another study carried out in 2016, showed a worrying link between industrial food additives and an increase in IBD rates. Salt, glucose, gluten, and organic solvents are just some of the additives used in processed foods that may increase the risk of autoimmune diseases.

So, it is mostly down to the chemicals in processed foods that can trigger IBD symptoms to flare up.

What other effects can processed food have on our health?

As well as triggering IBD symptoms, processed foods can have a range of negative effects on our health. Eating a diet packed full of processed foods can:

  • Increase your cancer risk
  • Lead to obesity
  • Cause a nutrient deficiency
  • Trigger high blood pressure
  • Increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack

As you can see, processed foods can be extremely damaging to our health, which is why we are often told to reduce the amount we eat.

Cutting down on your consumption of processed foods is essential when you suffer with IBD. However, this might not be enough to eliminate your symptoms completely. If you are struggling to manage your IBD, book an appointment with Mr Michael Stellakis. He can recommend medical treatments, organise a colonoscopy or refer you to a gastroenterologist if required.