Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis: how do the foods children eat affect their disease?
This research was completed on 28 February 2017
Published on 24 June 2015
Research Training Fellowship*: Dr Harween Dogra
Estimates suggest more than 115,000 people have Crohn’s disease in the UK and around 146,000 have ulcerative colitis.1,2 Around one in four of the people who are diagnosed with these two conditions are children or adolescents.3 Young people with either condition can experience debilitating symptoms – such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain and tiredness – which result from inflammation within the gut. Dr Harween Dogra, of Queen Mary University, London, is investigating how the foods children eat affect their disease. She hopes her work will one day lead to better ways to control Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis through diet.
How are children’s lives affected now?
“Children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are often unable to enjoy food because it causes tummy pain and diarrhoea,” says Dr Dogra. “These symptoms bring with them the stigma of having to go to the toilet all the time, spending a long time in the toilet and sometimes needing to use suppository medicines.”
“Some children lose their appetite completely,” continues Dr Dogra. “Inadequate nutrition can lead to anaemia, meaning children feel tired and lethargic. They miss school days and cannot take part in activities they enjoy. Children’s growth can also slow down. The most severely affected children require bowel surgery and a stoma – an opening from the bowel to the surface of the tummy to collect stools in a bag.”
Medication for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis often helps reduce symptoms, but can have significant side effects. The more potent medicines require children to have frequent blood tests. Better treatments are urgently needed.
How could this research help?
“I aim to improve understanding of the disease processes involved in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis by studying how the immune system in the gut responds to nutrients in food,” says Dr Dogra. “At the moment, we cannot properly explain why children develop Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, or how the foods they eat may influence their symptoms. Children and their families commonly ask about these things, but we cannot answer their questions very well, which is very frustrating.”
“My work could give children and their families a better explanation of how diet impacts Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which would be fantastic in itself,” continues Dr Dogra. “It may also lead to the development of better nutritional therapies, as an add-on or an alternative to medication. Nutritional therapies that are safer than existing medicines, with fewer side effects, and that control the disease without the need for frequent blood tests, could improve the quality of life of children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis considerably.”
1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Crohn's disease: Management in adults, children and young people. NICE guideline [CG152]. October 2012. http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg152/chapter/introduction Website accessed 19 March 2015.
2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Ulcerative colitis: Management in adults, children and young people. NICE guideline [CG166]. June 2013. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg166/chapter/Introduction Website accessed 1 June 2015.
3. Crohn’s and colitis UK. IBD in children: a parent’s guide. http://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/Resources/CrohnsAndColitisUK/Document... Website accessed 1 June 1015.
|Project Leader||Dr Harween Dogra BMedSci MBBS MRCPCH|
|Location||Centre for Digestive Diseases, Blizard Institute, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry|
|Grant awarded||9 February 2015|
|Start date||1 March 2015|
|End date||28 February 2017|
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* Research Training Fellowships:
Each year, Action Medical Research awards these prestigious grants to help the brightest and best doctors and scientists develop their career in medical research