In an earlier post titled “Manage bathroom emergencies with some simple diet modifications” I called out dietary fat as a common trigger for diarrhea and abdominal cramping.
I doubt this fun fact came as news to anyone who suffers from diarrhea predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
There are a variety of physiological explanations for why fats can cause unwanted GI symptoms, and today’s post is going to focus on your gastrocolic reflex.
A common concern among my patients with diarrhea is that they feel like food, particularly fried foods, greasy foods, red meat and high-fat dairy, “runs right through” them.
Sound familiar? You might have your gastrocolic reflex to thank for your urgent sprints to the loo shortly after eating.
When large amounts of liquids or food, especially dietary fat, enter the stomach and the duodenum (i.e. the first part of the small intestine, right after the stomach), a message is sent to the colon (i.e. the large intestine) that results in increased colonic motility. This response is a result of the stomach and small intestine informing the lower intestine that there’s more food coming so it better make room.
Some people with IBS-D have an exaggerated gastrocolic reflex that disturbs their quality of life. Fortunately, you might be able to manage it with a few simple modifications: Eat smaller portions, chew food well, drink fluids between meals as opposed to with meals, choose fish or chicken over red meat, and avoid fried/greasy foods.
On the other hand, if you suffer from constipation then you might try eating larger meals less frequently to stimulate your gastrocolic reflex.
Stay tuned for future posts on how and why different foods and nutrients influence our digestive tract.