As a young teen trying to lose a couple of extra pounds (and fit into my favorite dance leotards), I was always looking out for fat. I instinctively checked the nutritional labels on all the foods I consumed on my never-ending quest to lose my baby fat. According to all conventional wisdom at the time—articles, commercials, and even my doctor—eating fat made you fat.
To make matters worse, I took Accutane in eighth grade to rid myself of horrible acne. While the medication cleared my skin, it also caused incredible irritation and inflammation in my gut. Suddenly, eating certain foods caused intense cramping, bloating, and horrible diarrhea. Any time I ate something fried or greasy, I would find myself later doubled over in pain.
I sought the help of a wonderful GI doctor and a nutritionist, both of whom diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is a disease that can make it difficult for the body to digest fat. One of the symptoms of IBS is a fast-moving intestinal tract, which causes food to move swiftly through the digestive system, resulting in diarrhea. Because fat already acts as a digestive "lubricant, increasing fat too quickly can cause this problem to get worse. Fat is also a very complex molecule, taking a lot of time for the body to digest. For people with IBS, a high-fat meal can take a toll on the already exhausted digestive system.
My doctors also diagnosed me with low and inadequate bile. When our bodies cannot digest fat, it means bile in the gallbladder is thick and sticky. During digestion, it cannot squeeze the bile out. In a vicious cycle, toxins and old hormones are reabsorbed because the bile doesn’t leave the body, leaving the digestive system inflamed.
Here's the kicker: The main factor that causes poor bile quality is a low-fat diet. When we eat a low-fat diet, bile release isn’t signaled, so bile sits in the gallbladder, turning thick and viscous. When we do eat fat, the gallbladder can’t squeeze out the thick bile, and the fat passes through our digestive tract undigested, causing inflammation.