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Doing These Things Can Reduce Your Risk Of Developing IBD By 61%

Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
By Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
Gretchen Lidicker earned her master’s degree in physiology with a focus on alternative medicine from Georgetown University. She is the author of “CBD Oil Everyday Secrets” and “Magnesium Everyday Secrets.”
older woman mixing up a salad
Image by Trinette Reed / Stocksy
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When it comes to preventing autoimmune disease, it's normal to wonder how much is really under your control. We've long known that nutritional and lifestyle factors can affect the risk of developing certain diseases, but there's very little data out there to explain exactly how much these factors can help or hurt. 

Interestingly, one new study explains exactly how to reduce your risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by as much as 61%.

These lifestyle factors reduce your risk of IBD.

But first, a recap on IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to describe two gut conditions characterized by chronic inflammation and damage to the GI tract. Its symptoms include persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding/bloody stools, weight loss, and fatigue. You've likely heard about these conditions before or know someone who has one.

The first is Crohn's disease, which can affect any part of the GI tract but typically affects the small intestine, while the second is ulcerative colitis, which normally occurs in the large intestine, colon, and rectum. An IBD diagnosis can be life-altering and incapacitating, and medical experts are still working on developing effective treatments, so we'd all benefit from investing in preventive measures. 

And now, thanks to a new study, we know a little bit more about which preventive measures make a difference, and by how much. The study included more than 200,000 adults in the United States and Europe and looked at factors like diet (including fruit, vegetable, fiber, and red meat intake), tobacco use, body mass index (BMI), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use, physical activity level, and adherence to certain healthy lifestyle factors.

It found that those who generally invested in healthy lifestyle factors like eating fruits and vegetables, getting enough fiber, and engaging in regular exercise—and generally avoided unhealthy ones like having a high BMI and smoking—could prevent about 61% of Crohn's disease cases and about 42% of ulcerative colitis cases. 

Nevertheless, the study did have some limitations. For example, stress, which has a known link to IBD1 and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), was not included as one of the lifestyle factors. Even so, as Emily W. Lopes, MPH, and one of the study's authors, explained to Medical News Today, "...adherence to a number of dietary and lifestyle factors known to be associated with risk of Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) could have prevented a substantial number of cases."

How to invest in IBD prevention daily.

If you're looking to support lifelong gut health—whether you feel you're at risk of developing IBD, IBS, or any other gut-related condition—you can use the study's lessons as a guide. Many of the risk factors can be combined into three lifestyle habits that you can adopt to support your gut and overall health: 

1.

Eat more veggies.

Whether it be root or cruciferous vegetables, greens, or nightshades, eating plenty of veggies is one of the best things you can do to optimize your health. Vegetables provide micronutrients, antioxidants, and fiber to help you maintain a healthy weight and give your body the tools it needs to function efficiently. If you're not sure how to get more veggies, try this secret to getting more greens daily. 

2.

Get moving.

Engaging in physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, and it's a powerhouse when it comes to stress reduction and immune system health. Also, research shows2 that if you have an autoimmune disease, staying physically active can help manage your symptoms, decrease fatigue, and improve mood. You can start with these 14 easy at-home workouts for all fitness levels. 

3.

Use over-the-counter drugs only when needed.

Like many over-the-counter pain relievers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can be damaging to the gut, especially the microbiome. "There is considerable evidence to show that NSAIDs cause bleeding, inflammation, and ulceration in the stomach and small intestine," write the authors of a paper3 on the negative influence of NSAIDs on the gut microbiome. If you're looking to support gut health and prevent IBD, be cognizant of these side effects and only use these drugs when you really need them. You can also work to recolonize your gut with beneficial bacteria by taking a daily probiotic. Here are the best probiotic supplements to look into. 

The takeaway.

A new study shows that when it comes to preventing inflammatory bowel disease, there are some lifestyle tweaks that might reduce your risk. It all starts with eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and supporting gut microbiome health. 

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Gretchen Lidicker, M.S. author page.
Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor

Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.