Too Much Sugar May Aggravate IBD Symptoms
Homemade pies, cakes and other sweet treats abound during the Yuletide season. For your health and waistline, you may want to consider limiting servings or even skipping dessert.
Many foods and beverages contain sweeteners, so it’s important to know about the ingredients. The USDA recommends consuming only 200 calories from added sugars (about 12 teaspoons) in a 2,000-calorie diet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists added sugars as sucrose, dextrose, table sugar, syrups, honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.
A new study by the University of Pittsburgh scientists shows eating too much sugar also may aggravate inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms and affect the colon.
“Too much sugar isn’t good for a variety of reasons, and our study adds to that evidence by showing how sugar may be harmful to the gut,” said senior author Timothy Hand, Ph.D., in Medical Xpress. “For patients with IBD, high-density sugar–found in things like soda and candy–might be something to stay away from.”
Hand is an associate professor of pediatrics and immunology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
The CDC states that IBD is a term for two conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both conditions are “characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Prolonged inflammation results in damage to the GI tract.”
Although the exact cause of IBD is unknown, it is the result of a weakened immune system, according to the CDC.
Too Much Sugar Harms the Colon
Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology published the University of Pittsburgh’s 14-day study.
The research, led by Ansen Burr, Ph.D., studied the effects of sugar on inflammatory bowel disease. Burr is a student in Pitt’s Medical Scientist Training Program.
In the study, researchers fed mice either a standard or high-sugar diet. Then, they treated the mice with DSS, a chemical that damages the colon and produces IBD symptoms.
Nine days later, all the mice on the high-sugar diet died. By comparison, all the animals on the standard diet survived until the end of the experiment.
Findings showed a high-sugar diet impairs cell renewal in the colon and exacerbates gut damage in IBD.
“Our research suggests that consuming high levels of sugar could have negative outcomes for repairing the colon in patients with inflammatory bowel disease,” Hand said.
IBD and Colon Cancer Similarities
IBD and colon cancer can share similar symptoms, so it is important to establish an accurate diagnosis. Consult your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms:
- A change in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
To accurately determine your condition, a colon cancer screening may be recommended. Colonoscopy is the gold standard for CRC screenings. This screening allows a doctor to view the entire large intestine, as well as find and remove polyps that could be cancerous.
People with IBD have a higher risk of colorectal cancer than the general population, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis should schedule a colonoscopy at doctor-recommended intervals.
Get Screened at 45+
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women. Everyone is at risk for this disease, regardless of age.
For people at average risk for colorectal cancer, healthcare agencies recommend starting screenings at age 45. Individuals should be screened even if they don’t have symptoms.
You may need to get screened before age 45 or more frequently if you have IBD, a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps (growths inside the colon and rectum) that may become cancerous.
Get a Colon Cancer Screening
Your quality of life may improve if you restrict consuming sugary foods and drinks and get screened for colorectal cancer.
When detected early, before the disease has spread to other organs, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. In 2020, the CDC said about 68 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be avoided if everyone eligible got screened.
Coverage of colonoscopy differs with health insurance policies. In most cases, there should be no out-of-pocket costs (such as copays or deductibles) for CRC screening tests.
You should contact your health insurance provider to verify any charges and to approve a colonoscopy before age 45.
If you are 45+, don’t delay your diagnosis. Discuss with your healthcare provider about scheduling your colonoscopy.