A special diet may help children with Chron disease and ulcerative colitis without the use of medications, according to a new study.
Chron disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that was once considered rare in children. It is now recognized as one of the most important chronic diseases that affect children and teens with approximately 20-30 percent of all patients with Chron presenting symptoms when they are younger than 20 years old.
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.
"I'm not surprised," Suskind added, "primarily because preliminary studies ... opened our eyes to the idea that diet had an impact."
Standard treatment for Chron disease and ulcerative colitis usually includes steroids and other immune-suppressing drugs. With severe symptoms, surgery is sometimes required to remove portions of the intestine.
Suskind and his team put the 10 patients, between the ages of 10 and 17, on a special diet. The diet is known as the specific carbohydrate diet. No other measures were used to treat the study participants' active Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.
The diet removes grains, most dairy products, and processed foods and sugars, except for honey. Those on the specific carbohydrate diet can eat nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats and nuts.
Suskind noted that scientists aren’t sure why the diet seems to work, but there are several theories.
First, it's known that diet affects the gut microbiome -- the array of bacteria in the digestive tract contributing to digestion and underlying the immune system .
"One of the likely reasons why dietary therapy works is it shifts the microbiome from being pro-inflammatory to non-inflammatory," he said.
"Another potential [reason] is there are a lot of additives in the foods we eat that can have an effect on the lining of the intestines. This diet takes out things deleterious to the mucus lining in the intestinal tract," Suskind said.
Other IBD researchers are praising the small study.
Dr. James Lewis is chief scientist for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America's IBD Plexus Program. He's helping lead national research in progress comparing the effectiveness of the specific carbohydrate diet to the so-called Mediterranean diet in inducing remission in patients with Crohn's disease. The Mediterranean diet stresses eating mostly plant-based foods.
Lewis praised Suskind's new study, noting that despite its small size, it adds to growing research suggesting a potential therapeutic benefit from the specific carbohydrate diet to inflammatory bowel patients.
"Even our most effective [standard] therapies leave a proportion of patients with persistently active disease or the inability to completely heal the intestine," Lewis said. "Because of that alone, we need other therapeutic approaches."
The study was published in the recent edition of the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.
Story sources: Maureen Salamon, http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/crohns-disease/news/20170109/special-diet-may-be-boon-for-kids-with-crohns-colitis#1