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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is there a link between milk and Crohn's disease?

    I have found multiple articles on the web stating that milk can cause Crohn's disease… is this true? Also, if I have already been diagnosed with Crohn's disease does that mean I should eliminate milk from my diet?
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  • 1

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    I am Accredited Practising Dietitian with a passion for helping people who suffer from food intolerance. I have 25 years of experience in this area … View Profile

    A search of the scientific literature does not confirm that there is any consistent association between milk and Crohn's disease.  In fact, some of the literature suggests that milk products might even be beneficial.    

    Intolerance to foods is common in Crohn's disease, but it is individual in that there is no one food which universally will cause symptoms or help symptoms.  If you think that a particular food causes symptoms the best way to check is to eliminate it, then reintroduce it, preferably several times. If the food involves an important food group, such as dairy products, you should consult a dietitian with experience in the area of food intolerance to ensure that your nutrition is not compromised.

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    Anonymous

    Thats not actually true about milk. Dairy products are not good for crohns whatsoever especially when we have flare ups.

    In relation to the inital question the ONLY thing I have found on the internet the remotely makes sense of what is the cause of crohns is to do with cows milk. This is a link to an article on mycobacterium   :      http://ibdcrohns.about.com/od/crohnsdisease/a/map.htm

    There are many articles about this bacteria and it makes sense as it creates the bad bacteria in the bowel and to counteract this we need to feed our bodies good bacteria i.e probiotics. I take high doses of probiotics every day which reduce crohns symptoms. Google VSL3 as this is 10 times the strength of a normal probiotic and I feel the difference taking this within 2-3 days. It is expensive but worth it when you have a flare up.

    I also have been seeing a naturopath in the last 18 months that specialises in crohns and gastro disorders and she was the first person that talked about this bacteria issue. She also told me the 5 foods to avoid and gluten is the number one factor to remove out of your diet. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar and dairy are other the four. I laughed at first at the thought of removing all of this out of my diet however over time by eliminating these foods my health has improved. Its not easy being 100% free of these foods but if you can be 75-80% free of all 5 you will feel better.

    Linda I have had crohns for over 8 years and its only in the last 3 years I have had severe crohns which forced me to change my diet and lifestyle.  Yes everyone is different and reacts differently to different foods but to say milk is good for crohns is not correct. 

  • 2

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    I am Accredited Practising Dietitian with a passion for helping people who suffer from food intolerance. I have 25 years of experience in this area … View Profile

    Dear Anonymous,

    Whilst you may personally have had success with the elimination of dairy products from your diet, this does not mean that everyone will benefit from the elimination of this food and I did not find that article relevant to the elimination of dairy products in patients who have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease.  It was hypothesising a cause and it was by no means proven.  You need to be careful what you read on the internet because it can be misleading.  As I mentioned in my original post, no one food will either cause or improve symptoms in every individual with Crohn's disease. 

    I must also mention here that you eliminated a great deal more than just dairy products from your diet.  When you eliminate alcohol and caffeine you are eliminating stimulants which commonly cause increased peristalsis and irritation.  When you eliminate wheat and gluten you are also eliminating a major source of fermentable carbohydrates which cause increased gas production.  When you eliminate sugar you are eliminating many sources of artificial colours and flavours and I suspect that, given you are being advised by a naturopath, you have be told to eliminate artificial food colours, preservatives and foods with added MSG.  All of these chemicals are potential irritants to the bowel wall in those with sensitive bowels and glutamates (MSG) in particular are neurotransmitters that can affect nerve transmission in the gut.

    You are very fortunate that you have had such a good response to dietary manipulation and I have had some patients who have done as well as you with dietary elimination.  However, it is not the case for all people with Crohn's disease and it is wrong to assume that it is.  Patients with Crohn's disease often struggle to maintain their weight and strict elimination diets can result in weight loss.  If symptoms do not improve, dietary elimination should be abandoned and a healthy, varied diet resumed.   If symptoms do improve, each food or food chemical that has been eliminated should be challenged/reintroduced to assess its effect on symptoms.  If that food or food chemical does not cause a worsening of symptoms, then it need not be avoided.  If a food or food chemical does cause symptoms, then it may or may not need absolute elimination.  Often there is a threshold to food chemicals so that small or even moderate amounts may be tolerated.  Through challenge and reintroduction to find the dose threshold the diet can be less restrictive, healthier and more socially acceptable.

  • 1

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    Mel Haynes

    Nutritionist

    Chef, Scientist and Nutritionist. I specialise culinary nutrition and disease prevention with plant based diets. www.culinetica.com.au View Profile

    Here is a study which may interest you.

    it suggests a semi vegetarian diet as a prevention of flare ups.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2877178/pdf/WJG-16-2484.pdf

    While it is a small study,  participants placed on a semi vegetarian diet had a 93% remission rate after 2 years which is an incredible result.

    Some other proven dietary changes are consuming 2 kiwifruit per day, probiotic supplements, tumeric and avoiding whitening nanoparticals (like in hard chewing gum coating)

    Hope this helps!

    Mel


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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Following up on Mel's comment, another (admittedly small sample size) study suggests that people with Crohn's disease who restrict their dairy product intake are statistically more likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms than those who do not.

    Quoting from its Abstract:

    "The frequency of gastrointestinal symptoms was higher among the Crohn's disease patients who restricted dairy products than among those with no restrictions (100% vs 42.9%; p = 0.013."

    The full (free-access) paper is here: 
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24559002 .

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