Why does a liquid diet help children with Crohn’s Disease?

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Greater insight has been gleaned as to why a specialised diet can help to reduce the debilitating symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease (CD), a form of inflammatory bowel disease, is a chronic condition causing inflammation of the digestive system. It comes with periods of activity and remission and may require intervention to alleviate symptoms.

A well known and proven effective way to manage the condition in children is exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN), a liquid diet that gives you all the nutrients you need without any solid foods. However, until now very little was understood as to why this liquid diet is beneficial to children with CD.

A group of researchers from the Netherlands and the UK, including Dr Jia Li and Mr James Kinross, part of the BRC Gut Heath theme, have come together to delve deeper into the mechanism of action for this diet to better understand why it assists with remission. By collecting faecal samples before, during and after placing 43 children onto the diet, the microbiota and metabolites were analysed and compared.

Results of the study have shown the microbiota and metabolites differ for those on the diet to their comparable controls. In terms of their microbiota, EEN decreased the diversity and reduced the amino acids, trimethylamine and cadaverine levels towards those of the controls. Patients with CD had reduced microbial metabolism of bile acids that partially normalized during EEN.

This finding is incredibly useful, as this has helped the team to understand the way in which EEN changes the microbiota and metabolomes. Unfortunately, EEN doesn’t work for every patient, so this may therefore allow for future prediction of EEN response.

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

  • Dr Jia Li
    Dr Jia Li
    Reader in Biological Chemistry