Why Fat is SO Important on a Gut-Healing Diet for IBS, SIBO & IBD

Prior to working with me, many of my new clients have attempted to manage their IBS, SIBO or IBD on their own by removing foods that trigger digestive symptoms or by following a diet such as low-FODMAP, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, SIBO-Specific Diet or Paleo type diets. 

I totally get it.  Perhaps you wanted to see if you can get some quick relief on your own.  Or perhaps a healthcare practitioner just told you to follow a certain diet without much direction – yep, this happened to me, too.

Don’t Just Remove the Problematic Foods

What I am seeing far too often is that some are following these diets without giving much thought to following any nutrition basics.  They’re just removing the “illegal” foods and hoping for the best.  In many cases this means:

  • They are eating too little or too much protein
  • They aren’t getting enough nutrient-dense foods in their diet because they are restricting their food options too much.  You can’t meet your nutrient needs on a diet of 10 foods.
  • They aren’t getting enough fat

What Type of Diets Require More Fat?

Many of the gut-healing diets, especially those that remove grains, dairy and legumes like the SIBO-Specific, Bi-Phasic or Paleo-type diets tend to be lower in carbohydrates.   And lower carbohydrate diets need to be higher in fat. 

Benefits of Adding More Fat to Your Diet

Adding fat to the diet will help:

  • Provide enough calories in the diet
  • Keep you full – you should not be hungry!
  • Maintain steady blood sugar so you have plenty of energy and don’t experience fatigue, headaches, shakiness and that “hangry” feeling that comes with a drop in blood sugar.  That’s the worst!

Most importantly, fat helps your body absorb nutrients like vitamins A, D, E & K – nutrients that are super-important for gut healing.  So make sure all meals include healthy fats. 

What Type of Fats Are Best?

Healthy fats can be found in the following foods:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil – use this to cook your food and use in salad dressing, marinades, pesto, etc
  • Coconut oil and full-fat coconut milk can be great options for those who have had their gallbladder removed as coconut fat doesn’t require bile to digest
  • Fatty wild fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, etc.
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Nut/seed butters like almond butter, peanut butter, Sunbutter and tahini may be easier to tolerate than whole nuts & seeds
  • If you can tolerate whole nuts and seeds try chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, pecans, etc.
  • If you can tolerate avocado, go for it!  Lucky duck 🙂

How to Tell if You Are Eating Enough Fat?

So how do you know if you are getting enough fat in your diet?  I recommend using a food-tracking app like My Fitness Pal or Cronometer to determine your macronutrient breakdown.   Consider the following macronutrient examples – note that protein stays the same and as the percentage of carbohydrates increases the percentage of fat decreases:

  • 20% protein, 20% carbohydrates, 60% fat
  • 20% protein, 30% carbohydrates, 50% fat
  • 20% protein, 40% carbohydrates, 40% fat

Remember, gut-healing diets need to be customized for your particular condition(s) and nutrient needs.  They are NOT forever diets and it’s very important to reintroduce foods that were limited or removed from the diet to determine just which ones trigger symptoms.  Of course, I highly recommend working with a clinical nutritionist to ensure you are eating a balanced diet that will help reduce symptoms and speed healing. 

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