By Dr. Mercola
Air pollution has long been implicated as a cause of heart and lung disease, in part because it triggers inflammation in your body. Now, researchers are beginning to explore its potential role in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
This isn’t such a stretch when you consider that pollution particles that enter your lungs may reside in mucous that eventually finds its way to your gut. There, it’s thought that the pollutants may trigger inflammation, make your gut more permeable and alter its normal balance of bacteria.1
Air Pollution and Gastrointestinal Disorders: What Does the Research Say?
While research into the role of air pollution on gastrointestinal diseases is still in its early stages, a link has already been established. One study revealed that short-term exposure to air pollution may trigger abdominal pain in young adults.2
Research has also shown that younger individuals were more likely to be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease if they lived in regions with higher ambient concentrations of the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide, while young ulcerative colitis patients were more likely to live in regions with higher sulfur dioxide pollution in the air.3
IBD did not emerge until after industrialization, so while environmental factors like air pollution may not explain its cause entirely, a strong role appears likely. Writing in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, researchers noted:4
“Known genetic loci account for less than 25% of the risk for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), suggesting a potential role for environmental triggers.”
Short-term exposure to air pollution has even been found to trigger some cases of appendicitis,5 and high air emissions of pollutants has been linked to a 40 percent increase in the rate of IBD hospitalizations.6
Air Pollution Might Increase IBD Risk by Altering Gut Bacteria
One theory for how air pollution might contribute to gastrointestinal tract disease is that it may alter the make up of bacteria in your gut – a factor that’s being increasingly linked to chronic