Olive oil digestion benefits are many because this antioxidant-rich fat carries gut healing compounds, helps with bowel regularity, and more.
But, the amounts you need to help your gut function better may surprise you.
This post will help you to learn how to use extra virgin olive oil to reap the most gut health benefits and reasons that you should work on increasing this healthy fat in your diet.
Your whole body will thank you.
Table of Contents
Anti-inflammatory for the gut
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in many antioxidants that help dampen down inflammation in the body. This is because olive oil stops free radicals from forming in the body.
For this reason, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil is linked to lower rates of most kinds of cancers, including gastrointestinal cancers, arthritis, and heart disease [R].
Additionally, extra virgin olive oil has the ability to help reduce pain. It even has similar properties to ibuprofen in this regard [R]. But olive oil doesn’t damage the small intestine like ibuprofen can.
These antioxidants help to decrease inflammatory compounds including tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-6, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) [R].
Related post: The Best Oil for Air Frying and Sauteeing
Antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil, known as polyphenols, act as prebiotics in the gut.
This means that they make a healthier microbiome. Specifically, olive oil antioxidants increase the number and type of healthy bacteria in the gut [R].
Eating olive oil also helps to produce healthy fats to fuel the gut called short-chain fatty acids [R].
Extra virgin olive even reduces symptoms of colitis by diminishing all of the following symptoms [R]:
- Incomplete evacuation
- Fecal urgency
- Overall symptoms of colitis
One of the reasons that extra virgin olive oil is thought to help with gut healing is that it improves the microbiome.
Olive oil for leaky gut
Leaky gut is an increasingly recognized condition according to Harvard Health. Not surprisingly, your diet will dictate a lot about how you are able to heal a leaky gut.
By increasing the number of healthy bacteria in the gut called Bacteroides, extra virgin olive oil may decrease intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut [R].
Also, because olive oil benefits the microbiome, the protective barrier in the gut called the mucin lining may also be increased, which helps further protect the body from foreign invaders [R].
Helps you absorb nutrients
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in a healthy type of fatty acid nutrient called monounsaturated fat.
The most common monounsaturated fat is called oleic acid, and olive oil has a lot of it.
Because of its healthy fat content, olive oil is able to enhance your digestive tract’s nutrient absorption.
In other words, this healthy oil helps your gut absorb fat-soluble nutrients.
Nutritious phenolic compounds in extra virgin olive oil also help scavenge free radicals in the body [R].
Research shows that extra virgin olive oil is likely the most important part of the Mediterranean diet because of these healthy compounds [R].
Healthy cooking oil
Contrary to popular opinion, using extra virgin olive oil in cooking is healthy because research shows it is stable under high temperatures [R].
It does not oxidize and smoke like previously thought [R].
It is superior to using other vegetable oils for stability in the pan [R].
In fact, cooking with it helps to increase the antioxidant availability of the foods it is cooked with, such as tomatoes, onions, and garlic [R].
Natural laxative effects
Olive oil digestion benefits include lubricating your digestive system. This is important because it helps make passing stool much easier on you.
Not only is olive oil effective, but it is also a very safe option to use because it simply helps lubricate the stool.
It doesn’t have any stimulant properties and does not make people dependent on it like some laxatives do.
Fascinatingly, extra virgin olive oil also helps reduce symptoms of incomplete evacuation [R].
In summary, olive oil as a laxative is very beneficial and should be included as a healthy remedy for occasional constipation.
May help with diarrhea too
While it helps with constipation, eating olive oil thankfully doesn’t cause diarrhea.
This is because olive oil simply lubricates the gut, making it good for bowel regularity.
Some research even shows that extra virgin olive oil reduces bowel urgency, a common concern for people with diarrhea [R].
For anyone who’s ever had diarrhea, reducing bowel urgency is a great benefit to have.
Plus, by helping your gut microbiome, extra virgin olive oil naturally helps regulate bowel movements too.
Of course, you can overdo anything, so if you drink 4 tablespoons of olive oil quickly, you may get a laxative effect no matter what.
Reduces gallstone risk
Although research is still early, using extra virgin olive oil daily may help reduce the risk of gallstones. This is because olive oil may help reduce the formation of stones in the biliary tract [R].
Diets rich in olive oil and high-quality foods reduce the risk of getting gallstones in the first place [R].
Helps with stomach health
Additionally, olive oil may reduce stomach acid when it is not needed, if you take it on an empty stomach between meals, according to Olive Oil Times.
One of the side benefits of eating a lot of olive oil is that it helps fill you up so you aren’t tempted by junk foods. Talk about a nice side effect!
Research shows this is true: olive oil helps to slow stomach emptying so you feel full for longer [R].
This leads to why it may also help reduce body fat too.
Reduces body fat
Olive oil impressively reduces body fat, 80 percent more than soybean oil, in combination with a low-calorie diet, according to a study of overweight women [R].
In this same study, blood pressure improved in the women eating olive oil too.
Another study confirmed this benefit by showing that olive oil not only reduces body fat but also helps improve muscle strength and improves walking speed in severely obese adults [R].
Adding extra virgin olive oil has so many benefits, and it tastes great, so there is no reason why this shouldn’t be one of your first diet changes for weight loss.
Other olive oil benefits
- Reduces blood pressure
- Helps with heart health
- Decreases the risk of strokes
- Helps manage blood sugar
- Reduces arthritis pain
- May help boost the mood
- Reduces cancer risk by helping turn off cancer genes
It should be clear by now that using extra virgin olive oil is healthy, so here are some ways to get the most out of this precious oil in your diet.
A lot of these benefits kick in when people eat at least 4 tablespoons per day.
Make sure to choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a cold-pressed olive oil that is simply made by crushing olives to extract the oil.
Because of this, much of the natural antioxidants from the olives are present in the oil. It should be a rich green color because of this.
It should be the color of this highlighting of the text!
If the oil is “light” olive oil or refined olive oil, it is not going to provide the same level of health benefits.
Light olive oil has been processed to remove most of the healthy compounds.
Extra virgin olive oil is flavorful
At first, you will be aware of the stronger flavor of the extra virgin olive oil, but just like fine wine, it will grow on you and you will learn to enjoy this flavor.
I find that there really isn’t any dish that can’t handle the flavor. Don’t be shy about baking with olive oil either!
Keep in mind, however, to get the most benefit from olive oil for gut healing, you will also want to adhere to a gut-healing diet too. Make sure to also get adequate fiber.
Related: The Best Fiber Supplements for IBS-Diarrhea.
How to use extra virgin olive oil for your gut
First, you are going to want to use more than you think you should.
If your food is swimming in olive oil, you are on the right track.
Keep a bottle of extra virgin olive oil to add to all your foods. Good places to start are:
When it comes to cooking and baking with olive oil, the sky’s the limit. Here are some easy ways to fit more olive oil into your diet.
Hint: if the recipe calls for a tablespoon, a lot of times you can go ahead and add 3!
- Add to tamponade
- Basil pesto
- Baked fish
- Use in guacamole helps prevent it from going brown too.
- Olive oil bread (gluten-free)
- I add it to my no-sugar-added blueberry muffin recipe in my book The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health
Olive oil’s gut health benefits only happen if you use it consistently and abundantly, so don’t be shy by using just a small amount.
Myths about cooking with olive oil
One myth I really want to clear up: you absolutely can cook with olive oil and even saute with it.
Research shows that it doesn’t smoke in the pan like previously thought and so it makes an excellent oil to cook pretty much anything.
Still, it’s best to use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil directly at the table because it is raw this way and it retains all the antioxidants.
Other tips for using olive oil
Make sure that you use up your olive oil quickly. Like all oils, it does begin to go rancid if it sits on the shelf for too long.
If you can’t see yourself adding it to so many things, go ahead and just eat a spoonful to reap the health benefits.
A good goal is to eat a liter of extra virgin olive oil a week.
How to use olive oil for constipation
Using olive oil for constipation is simple.
Eat around 1.5 teaspoons of olive oil per day (4 ml), for daily use as a starting amount, and work your way up to a lot more.
Many people use around 3 tablespoons a day to help with constipation.
The good news is that there is no harm in using olive oil for this condition, so the amount you need can be individualized to your response.
You can disguise it in foods or even in drinks if you want, it’s up to you.
Remember, the Mediterranean cultures eat around a liter a week, which is over 9 tablespoons per day, so just go ahead and go for it.
If you have an allergy or sensitivity to olive oil, don’t be silly; just don’t eat it.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. While The Healthy RD’s posts are backed by research, you are unique, so you must seek care from your own dietitian or healthcare provider. This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.