Powerlifter battling Crohn's disease wins personal victory
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Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition estimated to affect more than 115,000 Britons of all ages. Symptoms linked to the condition include urgent and frequent diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. It is well known that certain foods can induce a flare-up in the digestive tract. Researchers have warned that some foods, in particular, may increase the risk of Crohn’s disease by 80 percent.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that ultra-processed food was associated with significantly higher risks of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
The meta-analysis looked at the self-reported eating habits of more than 116,000 middle and older-age adults.
Compared to those who ate less than one serving of ultra-processed food per day, people who ate one to four servings per day has a 67 percent increased risk of IBD.
What’s more, those who ate five or more servings of ultra-processed foods per day has an 82 percent increased risk of IBD.
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The researchers noted: “Intakes of white meat, red meat, dairy, starch, and fruits, vegetables and legumes were not associated with IBD.”
The findings suggested the way foods are processed may be a contributing factor to IBD, but the study is observational so could not determine a causal effect.
The scientists hypothesised that eating processed foods may generate an unhealthy mix of microbes in the gut, which leads to inflammation.
The perils of eating ultra-processed foods are well known, with obesity and poor health strongly associated to the diet.
Ultra-processed foods refer to factory-made foods packed with preservatives, such as soft drinks, sweetened breakfast cereals, chicken nuggets, and fried foods.
These foods are also typically high in added sugar, fat and salt, but lack fibre and vitamins.
In 2018, The Guardian reported that ultra-processed goods consisted of half of the foods bought by families in the UK.
A study conducted at the time showed that families in the UK buy more factory-made foods than any other country in Europe.
Crohn’s disease affects the gastrointestinal tract but is most common in the colon and terminal ileum.
Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, is a mucosal inflammation involving the rectum and colon.
The NHS explains: “People of any age can get IBD, but it’s usually diagnosed between the age of 15 and 40.”
Crohn’s disease in adults typically starts at the age of 30, with a peak incidence between ages 20 and 30, and a second peak occurring around age 50.
Prompt diagnosis and early treatment to suppress inflammation in the digestive tract are important to prevent scar tissues and strictures.
A severe complication that can result from IBD is the formation of a fistula, which is the formation of a connection point between two body parts, that warrants surgical intervention.
If severe inflammation and crippling symptoms are present when the condition is diagnosed, patients will usually be treated with steroids before being prescribed medication.
Steroids typically reduce inflammation but are unable to suppress the disease.
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