The presence of hydrogen sulfide through the consumption of meat has been associated with the rise of ulcerative colitis.
By Dawn Flemming
Through the introduction of high meat consumption in Japan, there was been an exponential rise in irritable bowel diseases across the country, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In the largest study ever taken on ulcerative colitis, 60 000 people were followed for over ten years. Researchers found that high animal protein consumption was associated with an increased risk of ulcerative colitis which is an inflammatory bowel disease characterized by diarrhea and bloody stool.
The culprit was not just any kind of protein, but animal-based protein. Plant-based protein did not have this association. Why is this? Because animal proteins contain more sulfur containing amino acids like methionine which the bacteria in our gut can turn into hydrogen sulfide. Evidence is showing that hydrogen sulfide may play a role in the development of ulcerative colitis.
Further studies have showed how the more meat people eat, the more sulfide there is in their stool. People who ate ten times more meat had ten times more sulfide in their stool. As such, they concluded that animal-based protein, specifically meat, was an important “substrate” for the kind of bacteria that caused hydrogen sulfide.
So why is hydrogen sulfide bad anyways? Hydrogen sulfide can act as a free radical damaging the lining in our colon as well as the DNA in the colon. Hydrogen sulfide doesn’t just cause smelly gas, but it is potentially toxic to the colon.
Diet is an important thing to observe, especially when you have UC especially seniors who are at higher risk of complications when they have the disease. If you are a senior with UC or know someone who suffers from the disease, make sure that you are aware of all the increased risks associated with diagnosis at later ages by discussing it with your GI doctor.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.