A study released at the 15th International Congress of Mucosal Immunology in Paris, France suggests that diet can have an impact on the digestive ecosystem in those with Crohn’s Disease.

A pilot study, lead by UC Davis(San Francisco, CA),  took a look at how various diets affect bacterial flora counts in those with Crohn’s Disease. Researchers examined the bacterial make-up of 6 patients with Crohn’s Disease who were in remission who had either been on a Low Residue Diet or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Their bacterial levels were compared to each other & a control group made up of people with healthy digestive systems. Previous studies have suggested that bacterial flora counts might play a part in Crohn’s Disease as those with Crohn’s Disease often show a lower bacterial flora count than those with a healthy digestive system.

The results of the study showed that those on a Low Residue Diet saw a drop in bacterial flora, losing 11 bacteria strains which belonged to 3 different bacterial families. Those who were on the Specific Carbohydrate diet saw their total bacterial flora count rise to a total of 376 bacterial strains belonging to 32 different bacterial families.  This would suggest that those with Crohn’s Disease may benefit from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet as more flora & better bacterial diversity may help prevent future Crohn’s Disease flare-ups.

However, there are a few problems with the study. First, the study only looked at 6 people which is quite small for a research study. This is probably why it was listed as a pilot research study which will hopefully jump start a larger study later on. The press release available is currently lacking in many key details such as:

  • How many people were on a Low Residue Diet versus Specific Carbohydrate Diet?
  • What are the bacterial counts for the control group?
  • Why list bacterial losses for Low Residue Diet, but then list only the total bacterial count for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

Additionally the study noted that the detection techniques used, Qiagen Stool Kit & phenol-chloroform method, gave differing results. Perhaps when more information is released about this study, we’ll have answers to these questions.

The biggest unanswered question is why diet would have such a big impact on the bacterial health in those with Crohn’s Disease versus those with a healthy digestive tract? Do certain foods trigger an autoimmune reaction that certain bacteria are more susceptible to? While the study doesn’t answer this question, it does offer more “food for thought” for those with Crohn’s Disease.