“Salad Deficiency” Causes Ulcerative Colitis in Gorillas

It’s Probably an Important Cause of Ulcerative Colitis in Humans, As Well.

“Ulcerative colitis” means open sores in the large intestine, which is also called the colon. This condition can cause severe abdominal pain and cramping as well as bloody diarrhea. The “leaky gut syndrome” that results can cause joint pain and make the person feel sick all over.

Wild gorillas eat an extremely high-fiber diet, consisting mainly of leaves. Captive gorillas that were fed a low-fiber diet were prone to severe ulcerative colitis. The same thing might be happening in people with ulcerative colitis.


High-fiber vegetables and fruits have several beneficial effects on the large intestine:

  • Fiber absorbs water and keeps the material inside the intestines nice and soft.
  • Fiber makes everything go through faster, which means that the wall of the intestine gets less exposure to harmful substances, such as bile acids and free ammonia.
  • High-fiber fruits and vegetables provide important nutrients and antioxidants that are good for the health of the intestines, as well as the rest of the body.
  • Bacteria in the large intestine ferment some of the fiber, releasing short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, which is the favorite fuel of the cells that line the large intestine. On a low-fiber diet, those cells could starve to death.

Are Researchers Barking Up the Wrong Tree?
When I looked up what clinical trials were being done on ulcerative colitis (http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=ulcerative+colitis&pg=12), I found lots of trials of drug treatments, some trials of “probiotics” (bacterial cultures), a few trials of surgical treatments, and even a few trials of psychotherapy and hypnosis. There were some studies in which people receive butyrate in high-colonic enemas. There were even some trials in which people were fed mare’s milk or fish. Apes don’t milk mares or catch fish, so why would anyone imagine that people would have to do that to keep their intestines healthy?

In other words, there were 224 clinical trials involving all sorts of drugs and surgery and so on, but no clinical trials trying the obvious therapeutic approach, which is a change to a healthy diet. We know that a low-fiber diet causes ulcerative colitis in gorillas, which have a digestive system almost identical to our own. We also know that eating wheat products can cause bloody diarrhea in a tiny minority of the population. So why isn’t anyone doing research about how to counsel people to solve this problem by correcting their diet? Here’s a link to a description of a simple yet healthful exclusion diet: http://www.drmcdougall.com/med_allergic.html

If you want your colon to be healthy, you have to feed it properly. If you already have ulcerative colitis or any other problem with your intestines, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian (RD) for dietary advice.