Inflammatory bowel disease and the fasting-mimicking diet

March 25, 2019

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, develops when there is acute or chronic inflammation in the intestine.  Scientists have determined that there are both genetic and environmental factors that can lead to IBD.  One of those environmental factors is diet and nutrition.  Luckily, diet is also part of the solution!

A recent scientific study found a connection between the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) and improvement in an animal model of IBD.  The FMD is a short-term broth based diet.  The broth is low protein and low calorie.  It is loaded with good fats as well as vegetable powder which contains vitamins and minerals.  In this study, animals with IBD were on the FMD for eight days.  On the first and fifth days they ate 50% of their normal caloric intake.  On all the other days, they only ate 10% of their normal caloric intake.  The details would be slightly different for a clinical trial, but it would be a similar idea.  (Fasting can be extremely dangerous.  It has serious consequences, both good and bad.  Consult with a medical professional before starting any fasting diet.)

The researchers found that after the FMD all signs pointed towards improvement.

  1. Lymphocyte counts were reduced. Lymphocytes are the white blood cells that tell your immune system how to respond.
  2. Colon length returned to normal, like the animals never had IBD. The length of the colon is a way to measure the severity of IBD.  The shorter the colon, the more severe the case.
  3. The number of crypts increased, suggesting that the intestine could be undergoing regeneration to repair the damage! Crypts are a part of the micro-architecture of the lining of the intestine.
  4. Interleukin-17A (IL-17A) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) levels increased. Both of these factors, known as cytokines, boost the intestine’s ability to heal after inflammation.
  5. Levels increased of the Lactobacillaceae family of bacteria in the gut microbiome. Lactobacillaceae interacts with the T-cells of the immune system to reduce IBD symptoms.
  6. Levels of Bifidobacteriaceae increased, which has also been linked to reduced IBD symptoms.

These results strengthen the link between diet and IBD.  There is something about a low-calorie, high fiber, prebiotic filled plant based diet that reduces inflammation and triggers intestinal regeneration.  We’ll keep you up-to-date on future clinical trials with FMD and IBD.   We’re also watching for follow-up studies to see if the FMD also helps with other autoimmune diseases.

If you’re interested in the scientific details, check out the following scholarly article.

Rangan P, Choi I, Wei M, Navarrete G, Guen E, Brandhorst S, Enyati N, Pasia G, Maesincee D, Ocon V, Abdulridha M, Longo VD. Fasting-Mimicking Diet Modulates Microbiota and Promotes Intestinal Regeneration to Reduce Inflammatory Bowel Disease Pathology. Cell Rep. 2019 Mar 5;26(10):2704-2719.e6.

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