How many times have you heard as an IBD patient, “If you would just change your diet, you could control/treat/cure your disease”?
Well if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot. There seems to be an overarching misconception that IBD patients can control their disease through diet, but what if it wasn’t a misconception? Could there really be some truth to controlling IBD through food?
Until recently, there have never been any national research studies to dive into this topic. Then, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute announced that it awarded the CCFA $2.5 million dollars to study diet as a way to manage Crohn’s disease. As a UC patient, I felt a little left out, but this is really good news all around. The results from this study will have the ability to affect patient treatment for IBD massively!
The CCFA awarded study will aims to investigate the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) and a Mediterranean-style diet and their effect on inducing remission as well as lowering inflammation in Crohn’s patients. In relation to the topic of study, Jessica Burris, a member of the patient governance committee of CCFA’s patient-powered research network said, "I’ve always been curious why many IBD patients can only achieve remission via medication, while some are able to manage their symptoms with dietary changes.”
Jessica’s curiosity is shared by many IBD patients as well as doctors and surgeons! Patients who enroll in this study will have their meals provided for 6 weeks through a meal delivery system. The patients reports on their diets and their symptoms will guide the results of this study. Disease activity will also be assessed when the study begins, at 6 weeks and also at 12 weeks.
Why is this study so exciting? For starters, diet and IBD is a huge topic in the community and as of right now, there is very little scientific research being conducting about it. Why is it so controversial? That is due to a number of reasons. Mostly, some can argue that a study like this further perpetuates the idea that IBD patients cause and/or make their own diseases worse by what they eat. As a patient myself, I have spent a lot of time fighting this myth among the general population. Before I had my surgeries for a j-pouch I tried a few different diets, none of which worked for me. I have even met a lot of other people with the same results. You could say, through patient stories we’ve all conducted our own research. However, that’s not really how research works -- none of our “tests” were in controlled environments.
Performing a large study such as this with controlled conditions will likely tell us one of two things: Either these two specific diets have an effect on Crohn’s disease...or they don’t. I, personally see both of these outcomes as great results. If the results come back that there is a positive effect on Crohn’s disease from the SCD diet or a Mediterranean-style, what great news! This means that we now have a clinically proven treatment that is alternative to medications! How great would that be?!
However, if it comes back that there is no effect on Crohn’s disease from these two diets, I also think this is a great success. There are many patients, like myself, who have yet to see any great results from diets and are constantly defending this stance to those who believe diet has disease changing effects. If this study proves that there are little to no effects on Crohn’s disease, it will no longer be a myth -- we’ll have scientific proof to back that up.
The way I look at it, we either get a new treatment or we get to respectfully educate pro-diet advocates. But the third, and arguably most awesome thing to note, is that this study may become a catalyst for other similar studies to begin. Perhaps in the future there will be more funding for diet specific studies in IBD which can either product new treatments, or can redirect us to other paths for finding new treatments.
What does this mean for you as a patient?
If you’re currently Crohn’s patient, keep in mind this study means only good things for you. Potentially within the next year, we could have scientific research proving or disproving diet as a form of treatment for Crohn’s disease. For many patients this could mean a change in their treatment plans all together, not to mention, the possibility of less symptoms and even achieving remission. We live in an exciting time for research and development of new treatments! Big thanks to the CCFA and their partners for making studies like this a reality in our lifetime!
Jackie is an ulcerative colitis patient and the founder and Executive Director ofGirls With Guts. Since diagnosis, she has been blogging her IBD journey atBlood, Poop, and Tears. Jackie has worked hard to become a strong voice in the patient advocacy community, and pays it forward as Social Ambassador of theIBDHealthCentral Facebook page.