Although it sounded "pie in the sky", the medical profession should consider intensive dietary supervision for countering inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rather than "hammering" people's immune systems with drugs, a visiting authority told a gastroenterology conference in Dunedin this week.
Prof Balfour Sartor is director of the multidisciplinary centre for IBD research and treatment at the University of North Carolina, in the United States. He was one of the first speakers at the opening session of the annual scientific meeting of the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (gastroenterology section). The three-day conference finished yesterday.
Having IBD usually meant either Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis, and the effects of both could be debilitating.
At present, clinicians tended towards the "lame" approach of telling patients to avoid food that exacerbated their symptoms. Patients were already self-prescribing "bizarre" diets from the Internet and popular culture, he said.
There was sufficient evidence to prompt an official move away from controlling IBD with drugs, towards treating and even preventing them with diet.
High sugar, low fibre food made symptoms worse; food that was unprocessed, high fibre, and low fat helped.
Other environmental factors included antibiotic use, air pollution, one-off infections, obesity, smoking, vitamin deficiency, although more research was needed on most of these.
Genetics was a factor, but many more people carried genetic markers of IBD than the number with the diseases, suggesting definite environmental triggers.
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