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.”
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 10 children in the study were between 10 and 17 years old.
Suskind and his team put the 10 patients 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 exactly how dietary changes might control damage to the intestinal lining from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but that several theories are possible. 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.