Using Essential Fatty Acids to Treat Crohn’s Disease
A recent Japanese study showed some interesting data with regards to proportions of essential fatty acids to the incidence of Crohn’s Disease. Nutritional experts know that our typical North American diet has more than adequate levels of omega-6 fatty acids or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), as it is sometimes called. In those with a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, researchers found much higher levels of ALA than in participants used as controls.
Another interesting facet of the study showed that there were lower than normal levels of EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid when the disease was active. Whether lower ingestion of omega 3 fats containing oily fish, resulted in active episodes of Crohn’s disease is not clear, but the drop in EPA blood levels and total polyunsaturated fatty acids certainly increased disease activity.
It has been clearly shown in clinical studies that a higher ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in the body produces a specific kind of inflammation in the intestinal tract of Crohn’s Disease sufferers. In vitro studies show this is called “arachidonic acid-induced inflammatory cytokine production.” Conversely, studies also show the anti-inflammatory capabilities of omega-3 oils derived from fish. As higher levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids were ingested, symptoms of intestinal distress reduced.
People in active stages of Crohn’s disease require special diets so as not to inflame the intestinal tract more than it already is. By adding increasingly larger amounts of fish derived omega-3 fatty acids as the gut tolerates it, these sufferers showed decreasing amounts of systematic disease. Endoscopy examinations showed a decrease in inflamed tissue as the ingestion of fish derived omega 3s was tolerated and increased.
In one clinical trial, intestinal mucosa was found to contain three times the level of EPA from fish derived omega-3 fatty acids that the control group and arachidonic acid levels were signigicantly lower. In another study EPA levels were up to 7 times higher.
Clearly, diet seems to have a strong correlation with the incidence of grumpy bowel disease. Irritated tissues from higher than tolerated levels of inflammation break down the tissues in the intestines creating food intolerances, pain, diarrhea and even bleeding. Care must then be taken to reduce the irritation by adding more bland foods into the diet and beginning a tolerable supplementation with omega-3 fats.
Researchers are providing new hope to Crohn’s disease sufferers by providing them with ways to reduce inflammation naturally without the use of pharmaceuticals which may have uncomfortable side effects. Check with your health care provider to see if supplementing your diet with oily fish is a good preventative to your flare-ups to Crohn’s disease.
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