Can a Plant-Based Diet Lead to Crohn’s Disease Remission?

Consuming a plant-based diet can lead to full symptom remission in patients with Crohn’s disease (CD), according to the findings of a case study published in Nutrients.

The study focused on a male in his mid-20s who reported to the Department of Gastroenterology in November 2014 after experiencing months of flu-like symptoms, weight loss, and diarrhea. The patient was a non-smoker with a past medical history of anal abscess but was not on any over-the-counter medications. A colonoscopy showed mucosa inflammation, modular congestion, multiple ulcers, as well as a few, non-bleeding erosions. The overall picture indicated moderately active and severe ileo-colonic CD, which a subsequent biopsy confirmed. At the time of diagnosis, the patient’s symptoms indicated a Harvey-Bradshaw Index (HBI) score of 17.

At the start of 2015, the patient began treatment with 5 mg/kg of the biologic drug infliximab once every 8 weeks. Initially, the patient’s symptoms failed to exhibit clinical response, and physicians increased the infliximab dosage to 7.5 mg/kg. After one year, the patient had demonstrated notable clinical response to infliximab with an HBI score that dropped to 5, however, he failed to achieve remission.

Deciding to Make a Change

Following two years of infliximab, the patient documented the full removal of animal products and processed foods from his diet during a 40-day period of religious observation. The whole food, plant-based diet resulted in the complete eradication of all symptoms (HBI 0). As such, the patient decided to permanently switch to a plant-based eating regimen, severely reducing his processed food intake while restricting his consumption of animal products to one serving, or less, per week. Moreover, during periods where the patient deviated from his diet and ate processed foods, his CD symptoms returned, only to once again subside with the continuation of his habitual plant-based routine.

Full Remission Achieved

After six months of maintaining a plant-based diet in conjunction with implementing fitness activities including yoga, weightlifting, and running, a follow-up colonoscopy in August 2017 revealed complete mucosal healing and no discernible evidence of CD. Furthermore, one year subsequent to the follow-up colonoscopy, the patient’s infliximab therapy was discontinued based on achieving full clinical remission. As of May 2019, the patient remains free of any significant CD symptoms.

“This case study offers hope for hundreds of thousands of people suffering from the painful symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease,” says study co-author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in a press release about the study.

“Not only does it show that eating a high-fiber, plant-based diet could help lead to Crohn’s disease remission, but all the ‘side effects’ are good ones, including a reduced risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.”

Source: Nutrients, EurekAlert