You can’t have good health without having a healthy gut, and one way to keep your gut in great shape is by consuming good-quality olive oil regularly.
Olive oil has the ability to keep our guts happy by several means. A crucially-important part of gut health is having the right bacteria, so it’s good news that compounds in olive oil are also known to inhibit damaging bacteria, including Helicobacter pylori which is linked with stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. 1
Cancers of the colon and digestive tract are high in the West, but Mediterranean populations who eat olives and olive oil daily have been found in studies to have lower rates of digestive tract cancers, especially of the stomach and small intestine. This is thought to be due to the polyphenols in olive oil and their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties. One study showed that olive oil (and also salmon oil) reduced the number and size of the intestinal polyps which can become malignant. 2
Studies show that olive oil can help make our digestive tracts better-functioning and more comfortable all the way down, by boosting gallbladder and pancreas function, preventing the secretion of excessive gastric acid, aiding gastric ulcer healing, and reducing damage from NSAID drugs. 3
Yet another gut-friendly quality of olive oil is its ability to boost the immune response within the gut lining. 4 And olive oil helps to transport fat-soluble vitamins to cells, including the vitamin A required to keep the immune system in the mucosal lining of the gut working.
Olive oil may be relatively high in calories – as all fats are – but it can help with weight loss by adding to our feeling of fullness, so that we are less likely to overeat. Olive oil also helps to regulate blood sugar levels which is an important factor in preventing weight gain. Finally, olive oil, a traditional remedy for constipation, has been found by researchers to be an effective but gentle laxative. 5
By writer and nutritionist Sally Beare
- Castro M et al (2012). Assessment of Helicobacter pylori eradication by virgin olive oil.
- Barone M et al (2014). Olive oil and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids suppress intestinal polyp growth by modulating the apoptotic process in ApcMin/+ mice. Carcinogenesis 35(7):1613-9.
- Alarcón de la Lastra C et al (2001). Mediterranean diet and health: biological importance of olive oil. Curr Pharm Des. 7(10):933-50.
- Sandra Martín-Peláez et al (2016). Influence of Phenol-Enriched Olive Oils on Human Intestinal Immune Function. Nutrients. 8(4): 213.
- Ramos CI et al (2015). The short-term effects of olive oil and flaxseed oil for the treatment of constipation in hemodialysis patients. J Ren Nutr. 25(1):50-6.