Testing impact of special diet on Crohn’s disease

Volunteers are needed to test a diet that researchers hope can improve the lives of those living with Crohn’s disease, a debilitating condition requiring life-long immunosuppression drugs and/or surgery.

The Monash University-led study will investigate whether a newly developed diet can reduce inflammation in Crohn’s Disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn’s disease, affects an estimated 100,000 Australians in total, including about one in 250 people aged 5-40, and this number is increasing.

It is a chronic, lifelong relapsing and remitting disease. A diet was developed that can reduce symptoms and inflammation, but it is a liquid diet, so can be very difficult to maintain long-term.

Exclusive EnteraNutrition has been used for about 30 years and involves drinking a nutritionally balanced liquid at the exclusion of all other foods and fluids except water for 6-12 weeks. It is not a permanent solution.

The new study will provide freshly made healthy food for four weeks to participants who have active Crohn’s disease and are on stable medical therapy but have ongoing intestinal inflammation and symptoms.

Participants will be allocated to one of two diets that follow healthy eating guidelines but differ in ingredients.

PhD candidate Jessica Fitzpatrick, a dietitian in the Monash University Central Clinical School’s Department of Gastroenterology, said an increase in Crohn’s disease and the frequency of flare-ups had been attributed to diet, so a suitable food-based diet could help.

“The traditional treatment for Crohn’s disease is life-long medical immunosuppression or surgery, for people who are usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 to 30,” she said.

“There is no known cure. Dietary therapy can work in Crohn’s Disease as we have one dietary therapy known to induce remission in Crohn’s disease, but it is a completely liquid diet that some adults have difficulty in following.”

Ms Fitzpatrick said those with Crohn’s often found it difficult to participate actively in its management. Many ended up requiring hospital treatment and had poor access to multidisciplinary chronic disease care, which also impacted them psychologically.

“Having a dietary therapy to help control symptoms and inflammation that is based on high-quality evidence may allow patients to have some control over their disease and improve their overall health and well-being,” she said.

The study needs 40 participants aged between 18 and 60 who live in or are willing to travel to Melbourne for two study appointments at the Alfred Hospital. They would need to eat the study food to the exclusion of all other foods, and have two blood/urine/stool tests and intestinal ultrasound.

They will record their symptoms and how much of the study food they are eating throughout.

Anyone interested in participating should contact Jessica Fitzpatrick at jessica.fitzpatrick1@monash.edu.

Text: Monash University. 

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