By following a handful of healthy habits, you can dramatically reduce your risk of developing an inflammatory bowel disease, a new study reports.
Adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prevent up to 60% of cases of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to research published Dec. 6 in the journal Gut.
“To our surprise, we found that a substantial proportion of cases could have been prevented by adhering to these lifestyle factors,” says senior researcher Dr. Hamed Khalili, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
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Do healthy habits really make a difference?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects more than 3 million adults in the United States, researchers said in background notes. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping and fatigue.
Previous studies have identified individual lifestyle factors associated with IBD, but researchers said it is not known whether sticking to healthy habits can prevent Crohn’s or colitis.
So they developed two separate lists of health factors that are thought to influence a person’s risk of IBD.
One list included a simple set of “modifiable risk factors” that included:
- Obesity (a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or more)
- Using NSAIDS like aspirin and ibuprofen more than two times a week
- Lack of physical activity
- Low daily intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, nuts and seeds
- High intake of red meat
The other was a more specific and detailed list of healthy habits that researchers used to create a “lifestyle risk score” for IBD. The second list included:
- Having a BMI between 18.5 and 25
- Never smoking
- Working out regularly
- Limiting alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women and two drinks for men
- Eating at least eight daily servings of fruit and vegetables
- Limiting intake of red meat to less than half a daily serving
- Eating fish twice a week
- Consuming at least 25 grams of fiber daily
- Munching at least half a serving of nuts and seeds daily
Which method works best for preventing IBD?
Researchers then tested whether either set of lifestyle factors would predict