Crohn’s disease affects as many as 780,000 Americans. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that usually affects the small and/or large intestine. The intestine becomes inflamed, sometimes resulting in dangerous blockages. It usually begins early in life. People with this disease experience periods of remission only to be followed by relapse. No-one knows what causes the disease, and currently there is no cure.
Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s own immune system malfunctions, resulting in inflamed tissue. Standard treatment usually involves medications, most of which have significant side effects and are usually only partially effective. For this reason, most patients will require surgery at least once. Clearly better treatments are needed. Even better would be to avoid getting the disease in the first place.
Now for the good news. A vegetarian diet reduces the risk of getting Crohn’s by 70% in young women and 80% in young men. For those already with the disease, a vegetarian diet has been shown to induce remission in 100% of cases after one year and 92% after two years. This is considered significantly more effective than medication.
Why does a vegetarian diet help so much? Scientists are actively researching the answer but some definite clues have already emerged. A vegetarian diet creates a bacterial profile in the intestine that is less inflammatory. Phytonutrients, special substances only found in plant foods, also seem to play a prominent role. Vegetarian diets are also higher in fiber which can also promote greater intestinal health.
So plant-based diets are turning out to be effective at both preventing and treating Crohn’s disease, as they are for other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and so many other diseases.
See professional level information on Crohn’s disease