For the first time in 20 or more years, there is some new and serious research being done about food and diet for those of us living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). If you are one of my regular readers then you know that I personally eat according to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) as outlined in the book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall - first published in 1994.
For me, SCD has been life-changing. Within two years of eating according to this gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free diet (dairy-free is not required on SCD but I realized quickly that dairy is the devil to my body) my gut was calmer and healthier. My quality of life was vastly improved - I am once again living and participating in my life rather than living in my bathroom. I have also been able to embark on a new career - I am now a certified natural foods chef and am half-way through my nutrition consultant studies, and I work mainly with IBD clients helping them to heal their gut with food (www.eatlivelocally.com).
While I support the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) in its efforts to find a cure for IBD, I wholeheartedly disagree with the dietary advice and guidelines they provide for those of us living with IBD. In the first few years of my illness (nearly 20 years ago) I ate according to their guidelines and I never got any better. In fact, I got sicker and my medications to control my symptoms increased. But, in the years since eating according to SCD and some of the other anti-inflammatory and autoimmune diets I researched and leaned about, my symptoms have either lessened or disappeared and the medication I take for my ulcerative colitis is nearly none.
A diet currently being developed at UMass Medical School is also showing promise at improving the lives of those living with Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
"IBD patients are demanding it, but at the moment doctors don't have any evidence-based dietary guidelines to recommend," said dietitian and nutrition researcher Barbara Olendzki, RD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine and director of the UMMS Center for Applied Nutrition. "Our aim is to provide a dietary therapy approach that addresses nutrient adequacy, malabsorption issues and symptom relief, and facilitates remission. We hope to show through further research that this may alter the course of the disease."
The diet, created by Olendzki and her colleagues, is called the IBD Anti-inflammatory Diet (IBD-AID) and was published in the Nutrition Journal.
The diet is based on the SCD, which is more restrictive than the IBD-AID but similarly the IBD-AID diet also limits such foods as refined sugars, gluten-based grains, and certain starches that are thought to stimulate the growth of inflammatory bacteria in the gut. The diet also adds foods that serve as pre- and probiotics that have been shown to assist in restoring the gut's healthier microbiome.
"We hypothesize that specific dietary modifications may significantly alter the intestinal microbiome and improve nutrient absorption, which in turn alters the immune response in such a way as to reduce disease activity and improve outcomes," Olendzki explained. "Unlike SCD, AID includes all three macronutrients protein and fats as well as carbohydrates to provide more nutrients that may protect against inflammation."
Further research is planned by Olendzki and her team to further understand bacterial microbiota in the gut and how the diet promotes and correlates with symptoms and disease progression.
"We are eager to further test the hypothesis that the IBD-AID promotes favorable changes in the microbiota that translate to improved symptomatology and overall quality of life observed in our preliminary studies," Olendzki said. "We want to bring more attention to this disease and change the treatment paradigm to one where patients can do something for themselves."