UMASS IBD Diet Study Sees 100% Success (Podcast 36)


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Living on the edge is infinitely rewarding, but frustrating.

It’s rewarding to spread the news and help people understand they can get lasting relief from natural treatment options…

…yet frustrating because there isn’t much published research to back up the results I see every day.

I know natural treatment works, but there are skeptics with much more ammo.

I was stoked to learn about the UMASS IBD-AID study when it was released. The abstract said it was based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and resulted in 100% of patients reducing their symptoms!

That’s some very promising results. But I’ve learned through the years that caution needs to be taken when evaluating any study. Researchers have agendas, the money that backs the research has agendas, and people do make mistakes. Because of that I held off writing about this study until I could get a better understanding of their research.

What I found was very exciting…

Why This Study Was Unique and Powerful

At a high level, what separates this study from the others is:

  1. The recruited participants had confirmed IBD and had taken, or were taking, 2 out of the 4 of the common drug treatments for IBD (Steroids, 5-ASA, Immunodulator, and aTNF)
  2. The participants weren’t new to the disease, the average time since diagnosis was 9.3 years (with a range of 1-24years)
  3. The treatment protocol worked equally well for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
  4. 100% of the patients were able to discontinue at least one of their prior anti-inflammatories, immunomodulators, or biologics
  5. Notably, 9 out of 11 patients were able to be managed without anti-TNF therapy, and 100% of the patients had their symptoms reduced

However, like I said, it pays to go deeper and really evaluate any research. After trading emails with the UMASS staff, I was able to gain a better understanding of the study. From there, it was clear that I needed to interview Gioia to learn as much as possible. What follows are my notes:

A Critical Review of This Study…

I don’t want to take anything from the UMASS team or the participants in the study because it is ground-breaking research and they deserve credit. But I do want to share why it is only the first step on a long road. Gioia freely admits that the study comes with limitations so don’t think they are trying to snowball anyone. Instead, they are doing the grunt work that every research field starts with. Every disease, including cancer, needs studies like this. Here’s what you should keep in mind as you ponder the study:

  1. It is a very small pilot of only 11 people (the more people in a study the better… conclusions are not related to chance – that’s why the best studies contain 1000’s of people)
  2. It was a retrospective study, meaning that the UMASS team decided on a criteria for inclusion and then picked the cases that meet this criteria to analyze them. This can be a serious flaw in any retrospective study, due to researcher bias. (I’m also unsure of how many years were sampled to find the 11 patients – in a retrospective study, it is unlikely that all the treatments happened in the same year.)
  3. The active treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Anti-Inflammatory Diet (IBD-AID) was administered in a custom fashion which provided fast symptom reductions (most saw results in under 4 weeks) but it is unclear what foods each patient ate from the IBD-AID allowed list. We are left to wonder how many actually ate the whole list? It’s important to note that the IBD-AID treatment was NOT the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. It was a new protocol the researchers developed that was loosely based on SCD.
  4. The IBD-AID appears to have changed over the time of this study. For example, Gioia mentioned that oats were added after a patient had great results with them. This presents a big problem if one were to assume that oats are good for everyone. We can’t tell if it was patient 1 or 10 who had good results with them. Also, we don’t know how many other foods were added to the treatment plan like this?
  5. The supplement protocol was custom and not published, therefore it is really hard to know what each patient was taking or impossible to conclude what could work in general.

Again, let me be clear: I’m grateful for all those involved in this study and really happy to hear about all the success they are having treating patients naturally. However, I want those who undertake natural treatments to be fully informed and prepared when discussing this info with doctors, naysayers, or the completely uniformed.

So, What Can We Conclude from the Study?

From my analysis, the following conclusions can be drawn:

  1. None of the study participants who had active IBD were harmed or experienced any side-effects from a diet that restricted grains, sugars, and other processed foods.
  2. None of the study participants were harmed or displayed side-effects by taking supplements chosen specifically for them.
  3. All of the study participants showed a decrease, or remission of IBD symptoms, after changing their diet and adding supplements.
  4. The active treatment (diet/supplements) were so powerful that 100% of participants were able to decrease or stop taking all classes of IBD drugs, including 9 out of 11 who were able to stop using anti-TNF therapy.
  5. Nothing in this study discredits the ability of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to help IBD, it simply provides more evidence that diet modification and supplements work… even in the toughest cases of IBD.
  6. The IBD-AID protocol and other related diet and supplement treatments should be further studied as a FIRST treatment option for IBD, due to the LACK of side-effects and extremely high results observed in this study. The reported clinical success of the SCD and GAPS protocols further advocate for more research in this area.

To sum it up for you, this study is more evidence that you should modify your diet to exclude all grains, processed foods, and sugars. If you have any digestive problems, especially IBD, the evidence is beginning to stack up that you need to be following SCD, GAPS, Paleo, Primal, or IBD-AID to naturally treat your disease. Of course, we’re bias to using SCD as we see it work on a regular basis with all types of IBD, especially when using a custom tailored diet. We also believe, as the study showed, that supplements are a very important part of naturally treating IBD.

The Inside Scoop

The UMASS team was kind enough to let me interview Gioia Persuittethe, co-author of the study. I really want to thank her and the University for their generosity. I also want to thank them for furthering natural treatment options for the digestive community. I hope they get their funding for the next study!

On This Podcast Interview, We Covered:

1:30 Gioia’s background and how she got involved in the study
4:20 Who was eligible for this study?
8:24 The specific changes made to the SCD to create the IBD-AID?
13:59 How fast did most of the patients start seeing progress?
19:42 Did anyone eat SCD Yogurt?
22:09 What Fish oil was everyone taking?
27:13 Was Vitamin D supplementation part of the study?
28:46 Diet modifications got people off drugs – but how long did it take?
33:00 Email gioia.persuitte AT to find out more
35:01 What were her biggest “Ah Ha”moments from the study?

Thanks again to Gioia and the staff of the UMASS team who participated in the study. For the record, there is no evidence suggesting saturated fat intake contributes to heart disease. In fact, it is likely protective. If you’re curious how I could make that claim, please listen to Chris Masterjohn and Chris Kresser as they cover the truth about Cholesterol and heart disease (Part I, Part II, and Part III).

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