Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

“What goes into the gut affects the health of the gut”

Disclaimer: The following information is for educational purposes only. Please consult your health practitioner before making major dietary changes and do not stop your medications without medical advice.

Inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are common in affluent, meat, dairy and processed food eating nations and uncommon or non-existent in populations who subsist on minimally processed plant-based diets. Both conditions affect the gut lining, our largest and most intimate interface with the ‘outside’ world, the food, microbes and digestive products of what we put in our mouths. These should be clues as to what causes and maintains these diseases – what goes into the gut affects the health of the gut.

This page is a landing page and resources page for IBD and is best used in conjunction with the Gut Health main page and the Elimination Diets page.

The typical Australian diet is a disaster for gut health. Constituents such as oils, animal fats and endotoxins from meat damage the intestinal barrier, effectively punching holes in the sieve that keeps out protein fragments and other molecules that can provoke an immune response. The result is an inflammatory reaction and further damage to the intestinal lining. Some animal proteins closely resemble our own and can provoke an immune attack on our own tissues, a process known as molecular mimicry. Dairy proteins seem to be most strongly associated with autoimmune disease.

Moving on to the colon: our diet determines what type of microbes predominate – inflammatory microbes that break down animal proteins and fats into toxic products or health supporting microbes that produce butyrate (see CSIRO Hungry Microbiome video) and support healthy gut lining cells. The animal protein that escapes digestion and absorption in the small intestine reaches the colon where it is putrefied by bacteria and releases many toxic, inflammatory molecules including TMA, rotten egg gas, ammonia and mercaptans. This mix is concentrated by the lack of bulking effect of the dietary fibre that only comes from whole plant foods. The further down the colon we travel, the more bacterial breakdown and reduction in volume has occurred, so it is not surprising that the distal colon and rectum are the most common sites for both colitis and bowel cancer.

When you take away the cause of a chronic disease it improves and often resolves. Our bodies are designed to move towards optimal health, at every level, from cells, to organs to the body as a whole. Leading plant-based practitioners have been treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease for long enough to have confidence that improvement or remission will occur. There are a limited number of clinical trials including Chiba et al 2010 from Japan that found that a mostly plant-based diet was highly effective for maintaining remission of Crohn’s disease. We have also included several testimonials from individuals who have used the power of whole plant foods to overcome severe inflammatory bowel disease. We don’t yet have a page for Diverticular Disease so we have included resources for this disease also.


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Page created 26 June 2017
Page last updated 1 May 2019