Bilberry: An Amazing Antioxidant for Our Gut

For those of you out there who gets gut issues, this is something you’re going to want to read this…

There’s a lot of mixed messages out there about fruits and gut health. If you suffer from diarrhea or colitis, it might be common for you to have a flare if you consume fruits or sugars. So, when you hear bilberry, it might throw you into a panic and think it will flare your gut issues as well…but evidence shows to the contrary. (1,2)

Bilberry is high in anthocyanins, which has anti-inflammatory effects on colitis (1,2). There have been multiple animal studies (1,2) showing benefit but the question comes down to whether it helps people with colitis.

An open pilot study with 13 patients with mild to moderate colitis was conducted to look into just this concept (1). Patients were followed for 9 weeks and by week 6 of the study, 63.4% of patients were in remission and 90.9% of patients had improvement in symptoms (1).

Despite this being a small study, data suggests that the chemical changes associated with bilberry on inflammatory levels are positive and helpful. Bilberry seems to lower inflammatory cytokines which are associated with colitis flares (2).

So, at the end of the day, how do you know whether you should spend the money and buy bilberry or not?

If you are having abdominal pain or bloating/gassiness multiple days per week, you should consider seeing your doctor for a work up. If you are regularly having diarrhea or constipation or reflux/indigestion at least a few days per week, you should have a gastrointestinal doctor evaluate you. These symptoms are extra concerning if you have family history of any gastrointestinal diseases like ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or any cancers.

In general, if you are having gut issues, do not ignore it if it is occurring on a recurrent basis. But if you are having issues, have your doctor evaluate you and consider eating a diet high in vegetables and low in processed sugars or starches…and look into bilberry for some additional support as long as your doctor approves!

References:

1. Biedermann, L, et al. Bilberry ingestion improves disease activity in mild to moderate ulcerative colitis — An open pilot study. Journal of Crohn's and Colitis. 7(4): 271-279, 2013.

2. Roth, S, et al. Bilberry-derived anthocyanins prevent IFN-gamma-induced pro-inflammatory signaling and cytokine secretion in human THP-1 Monocytic cells. Digestion. 90 (3): 179-189, 2014.

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