Crohn’s Disease and the Microbiome

While browsing some information about micro biomes and their important in disease presentation and management, I came across some interesting articles that explored specifically the micro biomes role in managing Crohn’s disease. I was unfamiliar with what this disease was, so I did some research on the internet and found this great resource published by the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation that described what the disease was, what causes it, signs and symptoms, etc. Simply put, Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease marked by chronic inflammation of the GI tract. This seems to be manifested in affected individuals as a reduction in appetite in conjunction with increased metabolic demands. Some of the signs and symptoms, such as diarrhea, can also limit the body’s ability to absorb important macromolecules. Because of this, diet is a huge factor when considering managing Crohn’s disease.

While diet is important for obtaining the proper nutrients with this disease, the diet is also super important in maintaining or introducing good microorganisms into the individuals microbiome. Why is this important at all, you may ask? Turns out, people with Crohn’s disease actually seem to have a “signature” microbiome, according to this entry in BMJ Journals. This profile of a microbiome includes reduced microbial diversity and a less stable microbial community, as well as 8 specific microbial groups that seem to act as a microbial signature. With this information, not only can doctors now address the microbial issues of Crohn’s disease patients, but also use these “profiled” micro biomes as biomarkers of Crohn’s disease in the diagnostic process, which is super cool. 

So back to the diet: how does this help to treat or manage this IBD? In the words of Dr. Fabio Cominelli in an article published by University Hospitals: “The main mechanism of diet is alteration of the microbiome.” By identifying which bacteria are in the gut due to consumption of different foods and determining positive/negative effects of these foods, the microbiome is a very useful tool in determining what foods may have more advantageous effects than others when managing Crohn’s disease via intestinal microbes. For example, in a separate study, researchers examined the effects on the microbiome of CD patients incorporating Splenda into their diets. The results of this study showed alterations in the microboimes of both CD patients and the control group; however, the CD patients also exhibited increased inflammation when compared to the controls. Dr. Cominelli’s research also explores the use of fecal transplants and probiotic use as means of altering the micro biome in CD patients. 

After reading the previously mentioned articles and studies, it has become increasingly evident to me how important the microbiome is in not only causing disease/illness, but also in treating disease and illness. Never would I have considered the microbiome to be so complex, yet still seemingly simple when it comes to being able to alter it simply by changing your diet. If I would’ve been asked how I might approach altering an individuals microbiome, I would’ve probably jumped straight to the more invasive ideas of fecal transplants and what not, since a complex solution is usually what aids in solving a complex problem. All in all, microbiomes are much cooler than I though they could be and are definitely an interesting field of research to look into. 

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