IBD and BPA: A Risky Combination

As we have reported numerous times over the past several years, the food additive bisphenol-A (or BPA) has been shown to be an endocrine-disrupting chemical and has been linked in thousands of clinical and scientific studies with myriad of serious health conditions. Among other places (like dental sealants and fillings) this chemical makes an appearance inside the cans, plastic bottles and lids of canned foods and drinks where it has been shown to migrate into the food where it is then consumed by the user.

The FDA says BPA is safe, so what is the problem?

BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers made with it and scientific studies indicate BPA may have possible health effects on the brain and prostate glands of fetuses, infants and children, and a variety of adverse health consequences for adults.  BPA has been linked in scientific studies with an increased risk for endocrine related cancers including breast cancer and prostate cancer, spikes in blood pressure, heart disease, abnormalities in liver function, low sperm counts in men, metabolic abnormalities, weight gain and increased serum cholesterol levels, neurological damage/altered brain development including a link with schizophrenia, puberty advances, disruptions, and abnormalities, insulin resistance and diabetes, adverse reproductive and developmental effects including recurrent miscarriages, and gynecomastia (a male breast disease that causes abnormal breast growth in boys and men). Perinatal exposure to BPA has recently been linked to an increased risk of food intolerance in adulthood.

Now scientists have uncovered a new population in which BPA creates a risk:  those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  According to the latest scientific study on bisphenol-A, BPA can increase mortality and worsen the symptoms for those individuals who struggle with IBD.

What is IBD?

Irritable bowel disease, or IBD, is a complex collection of diseases that include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. There is chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, and symptoms related to IBD can include severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. More serious instances can require lifelong treatment or possibly surgery.

How does the food additive BPA affect people with IBD?

To begin with, BPA has been shown to exacerbate colonic inflammation and alter microbiota metabolites–exposure to BPA increases the levels of several compounds that drive inflammation in the colon.  Additionally:

“One risk factor [for triggering and exacerbating IBD symptoms], the hormone estrogen, has been linked with an increased risk of IBD — and BPA can act as an estrogen. Furthermore, BPA has been previously shown to alter gut microbes similarly to the way the gut microbiota is altered in IBD patients.”

-Dr. Clint Allred, research scientist, Texas A&M


People with IBD–or risk factors for any of the other health conditions shown to be worsened by exposure to BPA–should avoid highly processed foods (including fast food and traditional restaurant food) and instead choose to make their own food and snacks from scratch using whole, natural ingredients, preferably organic when possible.  When minimally-processed ingredients are necessary choose organic options and always choose foods sold in glass bottles and containers over plastic and metal cans unless they specifically state the containers are free of BPA. See our paper for other actions consumers can take to minimize BPA exposure.


For more information on the scientific research findings linking BPA and other commonly used food additives with adverse health consequences get the Chemical-Free Life book written by P. Carlisle, Ph.D.


Journal Reference:  Jennifer AA DeLuca, Kimberly F Allred, Rani Menon, Rebekah Riordan, Brad R Weeks, Arul Jayaraman, Clinton D Allred. Bisphenol-A alters microbiota metabolites derived from aromatic amino acids and worsens disease activity during colitis. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2018; 243 (10): 864 DOI: 10.1177/1535370218782139