Gut Inflammation and Dishwasher Pods: What's the Link?

Some health influencers have called for replacing dishwasher detergents with natural products, citing a recent study that linked commonly used chemicals to gut inflammation. But what does the study actually say?

In a recent video, a health influencer, Bethany Ugarte, encouraged her followers to ditch dishwashing tablets and replace them with non-toxic alternatives.

Ugarte, also known as lilsipper, cited a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in February suggesting that rinse aid may damage the gut lining.

The study authors, led by scientists at the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research, exposed lab-grown cells used to simulate the gut to commercial dishwater detergent and rinse aid or in combination. The substances were applied for one day or more.

Detergent alone did not elicit any toxic effect at concentrations similar to the ones used for washing in a dishwasher on the intestinal epithelial barrier model used in the study.

Epithelial barrier regulates nutrient absorption and prevents the invasion of harmful bacteria in the human gut.

Meanwhile, alcohol ethoxylates, the key component in the rinse aid, were found to disrupt the epithelial barrier and trigger epithelial inflammation.

Rebecca Winderman, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist currently practicing in New York City, says that dishwasher detergent might harm the gut lining, and this could also apply to other substances.

While the study used lab-grown cells to simulate the gut, it's important to remember that real-life digestion is much more complex. What we eat undergoes several changes before reaching the gut, making it challenging to directly apply lab results to human health.


The study authors refer to the Epithelial Barrier Theory, which suggests that exposure to hazardous environmental agents disrupt the epithelial barrier of the skin, upper and lower airways, and the gut. This leads to inflammation, which may trigger the onset of many chronic diseases.

The proponents of the theory say it can explain the rise in chronic health conditions over the past decades, including autoimmune diseases and allergic disorders.

The gut barrier impairment has been linked to conditions like obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and fatty liver disease, among others.

However, more research in humans is needed to conclude the link between the use of chemicals in both industrial and household products and the disruption of the gut lining.

Keeping your gut healthy

Instead of focusing solely on the study's findings, Winderman recommends prioritizing a diverse fiber-rich diet.

"As we await more research, a simple tip for promoting gut health is to add more fruits or vegetables to your daily meals," she tells Healthnews.

Keep your gut healthy by adding other high-fiber foods, like whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, to your diet. Moreover, consider reducing the intake of fat, sugar, fatty meat, and alcohol.

Some lifestyle choices, such as getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and managing stress, can also contribute to healthier gut functioning.

While it is still too early to tell if chemicals in rinse aid can damage the gut lining in humans, healthy dietary and lifestyle choices may help to keep gut health in check.

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