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Irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal inflammation, a valid aid from the polyphenols of some foods

July 02, 2023
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Irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal inflammation, a valid aid from the polyphenols of some foods

Some natural substances, polyphenols, are able to relieve symptoms and prevent relapses of colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease

Bloating, abdominal pain, constipation alternating with diarrhea but also tiredness and fatigue, these are very common symptoms that we all experience sooner or later throughout our lives. Sometimes these symptoms can take on a chronic character and accompany us, between continuous relapses, for a long time worsening the quality of life. So let's try to better understand these disorders and what we can do to counteract them. In particular, we will deepen the role of polyphenols.

Inflammations that can affect the bowel

The bowel is an extraordinary organ, called to work to digest what we eat, eliminate waste substances and bacteria and instead assimilate nutrients and bring them into circulation. The intestine is therefore in contact with irritants, allergens and pathogens. Not only that, it is also one of the parts of our body most sensitive to stress and periods of severe anxiety can cause intestinal dysfunction (Chang et al, Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol., 2014). Here all of these conditions can increase the levels of intestinal inflammation. However, the bowel is equipped with tools to regenerate and fight inflammation. For example, its protective barrier is renewed every 3-5 days with new cells while the intestinal microbiota, which are the bacteria that populate the intestine, when in balance produce substances that counteract inflammation. This delicate mechanism can get jammed, for example due to increased stress, an unbalanced diet too rich in sugars and refined foods, some medicines, food intolerances, environmental factors and incorrect lifestyles, such as cigarette smoking. Here then inflammation takes over, the intestinal barrier may not protect against pathogens and conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, but also ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can develop. All these diseases are different from each other, the mechanisms that lead to their development have not been fully understood but the symptoms are very similar such as bloating, abdominal pain, constipation alternating with diarrhea, tiredness and fatigue (Giang et al, Nutr Diet, 2022 - Ng et al, J Inflamm Res, 2018). Medicinal treatments exist for these forms of inflammation but do not always bring the desired results, in addition to often involving side effects such as headaches, loss of weight and bone mass, gastrointestinal disturbances, pain, increased risk of infections (Hagan et al, Molecules, 2021). Here science is moving towards natural, beneficial, effective and better tolerated remedies. Among the various remedies, polyphenols have proved to be precious allies for a healthy intestine (Chojnacka et al, Postepy Biochem, 2020).

Polyphenols, allies of a healthy intestine

Polyphenols are natural substances present in some foods, such as extra virgin olive oil, peanuts, turmeric, ginger, tea, mint but also masticha, a special resin obtained from lentisk grown on the Greek island of Chios, anise oil, flaxseed and wheat grass. These substances show a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and bactericidal action useful for counteracting intestinal inflammation. In particular, studies have shown that the intake of polyphenol preparations is able to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms, improve the quality of life and prevent relapses of intestinal inflammation. These beneficial results have been observed in all inflammatory conditions that can affect the intestine, therefore irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease (Chojnacka et al, Postepy Biochem, 2020 - Giang et al, Nutr Diet, 2022).

Good to know

As stated, polyphenols, both taken individually and in mixtures, have been shown to counteract colitis, bloating, irritable bowel, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. However, studies have shown that some types of polyphenols may be more beneficial in case of specific inflammations. For example, resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes and peanuts, was found to be more protective than other polyphenols for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, while peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome (Giang et al, Nutr Diet, 2022 - Roudsari et al, Daru, 2019). Extra virgin olive oil is particularly effective in reducing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis (Hagan et al, Molecules, 2021).

Not only supplements

Most of the studies conducted on the beneficial action of polyphenols in case of irritable bowel, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease took into consideration supplements containing polyphenols, alone or combined with each other. These supplements are found in pharmacies and herbalist's shops. Although to a lesser extent, there are studies which testify that the intake of certain foods and drinks particularly rich in polyphenols can help protect the bowel. For example, regular tea intake, especially green tea, is able to reduce the risk of developing ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease (Hagan et al, Molecules, 2021). 30 grams per day of ground flaxseed has been shown to reduce circulating pro-inflammatory substances, to increase anti-inflammatory substances and to improve the condition of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. The intake of 200 - 400 grams of mango pulp has made it possible to counteract inflammation and colitis symptoms and to increase good intestinal bacteria, including those that produce butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid that fights inflammation ( Hagan et al, Molecules, 2021). Finally, 160 grams of blueberries reduce intestinal inflammation and improve ulcerative colitis (Hagan et al, Molecules, 2021).

Don't forget probiotics

Along with polyphenols, it's also important to take probiotics. In fact, probiotics have been shown to reduce symptoms in cases of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (Aragon et al, Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2010 - Jonkers et al, J R Soc Med, 2003).

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