Strawberries Secret: Can They Be Key To Gut Health?

Turns out, there’s more to strawberries than just Wimbledon.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the medical term used to define conditions that cause inflammation in the gut- most notably ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These two conditions cause inflammation in the gut, with painful symptoms that include watery (often bloody) diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue anaemia, fevers and severe abdominal cramps. There is also an increased risk of colon cancer.  This condition affects over 4 million people worldwide , usually between the ages of 15 and 40, and treatment relies on lifestyle changes and medication. In some cases, surgery is required.

One notable effect of inflammatory bowel diseases is the fact that it also increases the amount of healthy bacteria within the gut. However, a recent study has highlighted how consuming strawberries may help to manage symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease.

The study

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts conducted an animal study in hopes of helping individuals living with inflammatory bowel disease. As the consumption of fruits and vegetables have been linked with a lowered risk of inflammatory bowel disease, the researchers decided to focus on strawberries due to their wide consumption.

For the study, the researchers used four groups of mice with one group being healthy while the other three were had inflammatory bowel disease. The healthy group consumed a diet with 2.5% whole strawberry powder whilst the IBD mice consumed a diet with five% whole strawberry powder(which translates to 250g/three quarters of a cup of strawberries a day). The researchers made sure to feed the mice doses of strawberries that would be in line with regular human consumption.

The results on strawberries

The study revealed that strawberries not only improved the symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease, but they also restored the healthy balance of bacteria within the gut.

Specifically, the mice with IBD that consumed the the equivalent of around 250g of strawberries for a human saw their symptoms improve, which included weight loss and bloody diarrhoea. While inflammatory bowel disease is usually treated with medication or surgery, the researchers from the study believe that changes to the diet will have a bigger effect in managing painful symptoms. The healthier your diet, the easier your symptoms will be to manage,

“The sedentary lifestyle and dietary habits of many people – high-sugar, high-animal-fat, but low-fibre diets – may promote colonic inflammation and increase the risk of IBD” explains study leader, Professor Hang Xiao of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Following their findings, the team will now attempt to to work on human patients suffering from IBD in hopes of validating their findings.

Read more about the study here.

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