Dietary Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

Inflammation has recently emerged as an important player in the development of age-related disability and many of our major chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now that laboratory tests such as C-reactive protein have been developed, we can measure the effects different foods and diets have on inflammatory markers.

Most plant-based foods decrease inflammation. Processing destroys the anti-inflammatory effects of some (garlic decreases inflammation but garlic powder does not), but improves these effects in others (tomato juice decreases inflammation but whole tomatoes do not). For a review of which plants have been found to be most anti-inflammatory, check out my 3-min. video Anti-inflammatory Effects of Purple Potatoes.

Do these anti-inflammatory plant foods actually have an impact on inflammatory disease mortality though? In my 2-min. video Fighting Inflammation in a Nut Shell I profile a new study out of Australia, which followed about 2,500 older adults and their diets for 15 years. In that time, about 200 participants died of inflammatory diseases, allowing the scientists to calculate the specific aspect of the survivorsí diets that seemed to help the most. It was nuts! The equivalent of half a walnut a day appeared to cut the risk of dying from inflammatory disease in nearly half. Fish consumption, to their surprise, didnít seem to help, which may be due to pro-inflammatory industrial pollutants that build up the food chain. This may help explain why most studies done to date on those eating vegetarian or vegan have found lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers in their bodies.

However, just because plant-based diets decrease markers of inflammation doesn’t necessarily mean that plant-based diets can successfully be used to fight inflammatory disease. To find that out, you’ve got to put it to the test. The gold standard for evidence in nutritional science is an interventional trial. You split people into two groups and ask half to go on one diet, half to go on another, and then stand back and see what happens. That’s just what researchers recently did for the autoimmune inflammatory bowel condition known as Crohn’s disease, profiled in today’s video pick above.

Inflammatory bowel disease risk has been tied to arachidonic acid, which may partially explain the animal protein connection given the†levels in chicken and eggs. The anti-inflammatory nature of plant foods may explain why those eating plant-based diets have less diabetes (Preventing Macular Degeneration With Diet), fewer allergies (Preventing Allergies in Adulthood), less heart disease (China Study on Sudden Cardiac Death), better moods (Improving Mood Through Diet), and fewer chronic diseases in general (Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants).

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: Dylan Luder / Flickr

Bristol Stool Scale
The Best Detox
Stomach Staples or Healthy Kitchen Staples?


William C
William C1 years ago

Thank you.

W. C
W. C1 years ago


Kamia T.
Kamia T2 years ago

Do your own research. Some people live extremely well on such a diet, other do not. I'm getting tired of scientists lumping everyone together. It's simply NOT scientific. Various indigenous groups over centuries grew up eating different diets, and their needs are therefore now very different.

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn2 years ago

Many thanks to you !

Annamarie Molloy
Anna Molloy5 years ago

Very clearand concise, I don't know if I have Crohn's but my dedication to minimizing meat in my dioet has been renewed through viewing this.

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

devon leonard
Devon Leonar5 years ago

Thank you I really didn't know much about this and I appreciate the variety of articles you have on Crohns...

Sherry Cushman
Sherry C6 years ago


Jamie Cline
Jamie Cline6 years ago

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis 17 years ago and no one ever mentioned eating a plant-based diet to me. My doctor told me to avoid vegetables and fruit. When I protested, he said potatoes were probably okay. I have had a partial colectomy and had to have an iliostomy bag for 6 months before being reconnected and have years of pain and diarrhea which has interfered with my life and job many times. I will be trying the plant-based diet now.