Researchers at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland have put a finer point on what they believe may be the cause of Crohn’s disease.
Scientists have known that Crohn’s is a result of the immune system reacting to two types of gut bacteria, specifically E. Coli and Serratia marcescens. In Crohn’s patients, those two types of bacteria are higher than normal while “good” bacteria levels are lower. With this new study they’ve discovered another key microbe, a fungus called Candida tropicalis, that works in tandem with the aforementioned bacteria to form a thin layer in the digestive tract that may cause the inflammation associated with Crohn’s symptoms.
“These findings related to Crohn’s disease are similar to previous reports focused on other autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis confirming that the delicate balance of our immune systems is, to a great extent, dictated by organisms making up our microbiome,” said Dr. David Perlmutter, expert on brain and gut health, and author of Grain Brain. “It’s a revelation to embrace the idea that germs are, by and large, our friends.”
Crohn’s disease, which has come to the forefront of autoimmune diseases in recent years, has largely been classified by its symptoms of fatigue, weight loss and painful digestion. There’s no one test to diagnose Crohn’s—it can take multiple medical exams and lab tests (to the tune of years for some) to confirm that symptoms are in fact Crohn’s and not a different autoimmune ail. The frustration that Crohn’s patients and their families often experience when going through the steps to get a diagnosis and the subsequent lifestyle changes that follow tend to be especially exhausting, which is one reason these findings are so major. We are that much closer to better treatment.
With all eyes on the microbiome over the last five years, it’s become clear that following an anti-inflammatory diet and balancing hormones can help support the bacteria that live in our gut. A recent talk with Dr. Perlmutter recaps the more exciting research about the expansiveness of the gut, and how it may be responsible for our mood, our impressions on others, and propensity for disease.
"This new data is a play on ‘change your brain, change your life’ and is extended to ‘change your bacteria, change your life,’ said Dr. Joel Kahn, plant-based cardiologist. “Although much more data is needed, dietary changes have been shown have a positive influence on Crohn's disease. A semi-vegetarian diet has been shown to have a profound influence on the relapse rate of Crohn's disease and it is likely that this is in part due to a favorable environment for a healthy microbiome. Lactose sensitivity may be much more common in Crohn's Disease. This study provides hope for a cure for Crohn's by manipulating the microbiome through diet and supplementation, even fecal transplantation.”
At present, 570,000 individuals in United States alone are diagnosed with Crohn’s.Studies that help scientists and doctors pinpoint the cause of amorphous autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s bring us closer to finding more effective treatment.