Digestive health was what got me into studying medicine so when new research comes out I get really excited. Everyday I see at least one patient with an autoimmune condition. Until now the dietary intervention that I see work clinically hasn’t had research to back it. This particular study is therefore a landmark and I definitely suggest glancing over the abstract.
The participants of this study were all in an active flare of either Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. All were symptomatic and need to have received an endoscopy. Labs included tissue biopsies, gut testing to assess the changes in the microbiome and 6 weeks of an autoimmune paleo diet. This was followed by 5 weeks of maintenance and monitoring. Their medications remained unchanged during the study. Quality of life surveys were included. The average age of participants was mid 40’s and most had the disease for roughly 20 years.
The Autoimmune Protocol Works
73% went into clinical remission! This is based on the standard indexes for each disease taken at 3 different intervals during the research.
Average Mayo score (disease activity) in ulcerative colitis patients
- Baseline: 5.8
- Week six: 1.2
- Week eleven: 1.0
Average Harvey-Bradshaw index (disease activity) in Crohn’s disease patients:
- Baseline: 7.0
- Week six: 3.6
- Week eleven: 3.4
These results are especially encouraging given that most treatment for IBD comes with multiple side effects. These drug have mixed results with high variability. In this study four participants were able to discontinue some or all of their medications.
People who develop one autoimmune disease often develop another unless the root cause is treated. So this kind of dietary intervention is actually saving people’s lives. Treatment in conventional medicine usually includes suppressing the immune system with pharmaceuticals and invasive surgery.
What causes IBD?
- Genetics: 231 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within 200 different genes are associated with IBD risk. But genetics only account for a small proportion of the variance in disease. In Celiac Disease only 8.2% can be linked to genetics and 13.1% in Ulcerative Colitis)
- Environmental Factors: include gut dysbiosis, environmental toxins, and diet, among others play the biggest role. Increased risks from eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) are well know whereas anti-inflammatory diets like AIP are known to offer relief.
- Food Sensitivities: 65% of people with IBD have known food sensitivities. Some patients may not know which foods might be harming them. An elimination diet like AIP is the gold standard for assessing food sensitivities. Alternately testing is available. For my patients I always start with an elimination diet. Once people start feeling better these dietary changes are really not as difficult to make as people think.
Making the Commitment
When he was 3 years old, I took my son off of egg whites and gluten after he developed unrelenting eczema on his legs. Both these foods are excluded in AIP. I used both an elimination diet and serum blood testing.
His skin cleared up immediately. He doesn’t need to be on steroids. .Having a limited diet is not always easy. We have to make the commitment for it to work. The pay off is that he is thriving. I’m pretty convinced that if I had followed the doctor’s suggestion to use hydrocortisone on his eczema and make no diet changes he would have multiple more serious concerns to manage instead.
Conventional medicine does a great job monitoring his lungs. We are lucky to have met with an excellent pediatrician who we happen to know personally. He is curious and open about what other treatments we’ve explored. I know its not always like this. Looking to the future I see an integrative model of medicine where lifestyle and diet are primary interventions for chronic conditions. This kind of research is an important step in the right direction.