Children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may be able to achieve relief without medications by eating a special diet, a small study suggests.
The diet includes non-processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meats and nuts. Over 12 weeks, the diet appeared to ease all signs of these inflammatory bowel diseases in eight of the 10 affected children, researchers report.
“The study shows that without other intervention, other changes, we can improve individuals’ clinical as well as laboratory markers,” said study author Dr. David Suskind. He’s a professor of pediatrics and director of clinical gastroenterology at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects about 1.6 million Americans, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Both Crohn’s and colitis are believed to be autoimmune illnesses. The two conditions share symptoms such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, rectal bleeding and/or constipation.
Standard treatments for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis may include steroids and other immune-suppressing drugs. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove damaged portions of the intestine.
The children in the study were between 10 and 17 years old. The diet removes grains, most dairy products, and processed foods and sugars, except for honey.
“One of the likely reasons why dietary therapy works is it shifts the microbiome from being pro-inflammatory to non-inflammatory,” Suskind said. “Another potential [reason] is there are a lot of additives in the foods we eat that can have an effect of the lining of the intestines. This diet takes out things deleterious to the mucus lining in the intestinal tract,” he said.
The new research was published recently in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.
We understand much more about these autoimmune diseases than this article would have you believe. The trigger for Crohn’s and colitis is either a protein or carbohydrate that is not fully digested. If it “leaks” through the gut wall, an immune response is elicited.
Disaccharides, like lactose in dairy products or proteins like gluten in wheat are common offenders. Eliminating these and other refined products from the diet removes most of the triggers and the patient improves.
However, this is just the first step towards a true cure. It’s not the mucus lining that needs to heal, but the actual cells lining the digestive tract. This requires nutritional support, including folic acid and a prebiotic.
The cells lining the gut are totally replaced every 24 to 36 hours. Unless cell reproduction is supported, then the gut will continue to leak and future episodes will occur.
Conversion of folic acid from the food form to the bioavailable form occurs in these same cells. So a lack of adequate folic acid lowers cell reproduction which results in less conversion of folic acid. This “catch-22” then spirals out of control. Fully one-third of the population has a genetic impairment that limits or prevents folic acid conversion.
The Bottom Line:
This study is a great start and all gastroenterologists should encourage their patients to remove processed food from their diets. By the way, the carbohydrate specific diet is also known as the Paleo diet. We all can benefit from shifting away from processed food toward real food.
Source: January 9, 2017 National Institutes of Health