If you‘ve got Crohn‘s disease, don‘t visit the Mayo Clinic. That‘s because if you follow the advice posted on their web site and avoid problem foods such as broccoli, you may never get control of your disease. In fact, according to a new study, eating high fiber foods, like broccoli, may actually help block your symptoms from ever returning.
Small bacteria create big problems
Crohn‘s disease is an autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, researchers have recently discovered that harmful bacteria may also play a role. You see, individuals with Crohn‘s disease also tend to have elevated levels of the E. coli bacteria in their gut.
These harmful bacteria penetrate your intestinal walls via a type of cell called an M-cell. Technically, it‘s called translocation. And these bacteria stoke the fire in your gut, which can make you suffer from sores, bleeding, diarrhea, infection, and abscesses along the lining of your intestines.
Conventional wisdom tells you to avoid high-fiber foods -- especially foods in the cabbage family -- because these foods can make these symptoms worse. But researchers from the University of Liverpool recently discovered that the opposite might be true. The high-fiber foods may actually prevent the E. coli bacteria from taking hold in the first place.
In fact, Crohn‘s disease is very low in parts of the world -- like Africa, India, and Central America -- where high fiber food diets are prominent. By comparison, in the United States –- where we eat very little natural fiber -- the occurrence of inflammatory bowel disorders is very high.
UK scientists test out their theory
Scientists from the UK removed M-cells from human subjects. Next, they applied plant soluble fibers from leeks, apples, broccoli, and bananas to the cells. Then, the scientists unleashed the E. coli bacteria on the cells.
They found that M-cells applied with broccoli and banana fibers didn‘t let the E. coli bacteria pass through. Instead, these cells blocked E. coli translocation by up to 82 percent. Leeks and apples, on the other hand, did not have any protective effect on the cells.
Then, the scientists applied banana fibers to cells taken from an area of the small intestine called a Peyer‘s patch. Peyer‘s patches contain lymphoid tissue that are supposed to help protect you against diseases like Crohn‘s. They block harmful particles from entering or exiting the small intestine. However, in Crohn‘s patients, Peyer‘s patches don‘t work properly.
Yet in this case, after the banana fibers were applied, E. coli translocation decreased by more than 4,500 percent. Clearly, something in the fibers "rebooted" the Peyer‘s patch cells.
Next, the scientists applied a type of food emulsifier -- Polysorbate-80 -- to the M-cells. Food manufacturers commonly use this kind of emulsifier to bind ingredients. For example, you‘ll find Polysorbate-80 in most types of ice cream on the shelf.
But -- apparently -- M-cells don‘t deal with emulsifiers very well. E-coli translocation increased by 200 percent among M-cells applied with Polysorbate-80.
According to the researchers‘ published report, "Different dietary components may have powerful and contrasting effects on bacterial translocation across intestinal M-cells. These effects may be relevant to the role of environmental factors in the pathogenesis of Crohn‘s disease and suggest possible novel therapeutic approaches."
If you‘ve got Crohn‘s disease, go ahead and add high fiber foods back into your diet. They may just help keep the harmful E. coli from invading your gut. And this -- instead of drugs or surgery -- may help control your symptoms in the long run. In addition, make sure to avoid anything that contains an emulsifier. I‘d avoid them all together. In particular, keep an eye out for Polysorbate-80. Check the ingredients list if you‘re not sure. The last thing you want in your body is something that increases the spread of bacteria!