Fighting autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease requires a multi-modal approach including recognition that certain bacteria and certain foods worsen the condition. Focusing on one bacteria called adherent-invasive Escherichia coli for the moment, researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian took prior knowledge which implicated this bacteria and searched for the reasons behind the connection. The higher levels of this bacteria in the guts of Crohn’s disease patients works through the bacteria’s enzyme to start a cascade leading to increased inflammation by immune cells in the gut wall. Finding a treatment could help lower the disease intensity in many patients.
Crohn’s disease develops and plagues many as do other autoimmune diseases by turning the body’s defenses against their own tissue. This leads to inflammation and tissue damage at a microscopic level. At a real life level, stomach pain, diarrhea, blood in the stool, and sometimes fever results early. Less recognized in the early stages, the sufferer may not absorb iron or vitamins as well due to the inflammation. Later, they may develop inflammation beyond the gut, causing joint pain, rashes or other symptoms.
Ignoring all the technical jargon, the bacteria breaks down a sugar in the gut lining to make higher levels of a short chain fatty acid called propionic acid. Some of these short chain fatty acids like butyrate benefit our guts and bodies. Some like propionic acid, when too elevated, can trigger inflammation. In this case, the propionic acid levels produced by the bacteria appear to increase inflammation in these Crohn’s patients.
Now the researchers turn their attention to therapies which might interfere with this propionic acid production and thus decrease inflammation. While they search for their billion dollar drug, I hope they and you will consider some natural options which already lower Escherichia coli levels. These include: plantains, tannic acids, licorice, oregano, garlic, quercetin, Vitamin D, Berberine, Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic, and cinnamon bark. Discuss with your doctor before trying these whether or not you have Crohn’s or if a stool test shows high levels of this bacteria.
As we care for Crohn’s patients in our clinic, we will incorporate this research into our treatment approach which already includes looking for root causes, addressing collateral sources of inflammation and addressing personalized nutritional needs. We thank lab researchers as always for their continuing contributions and hard work in uncovering these mechanisms. Helping our patients live healthier more abundant lives depends on this research.
For More from Dr. Potter on Crohn’s disease and gut inflammation:
Fire in the Gut Part 2 https://sanctuaryfunctionalmedicine.com/2018/03/fire-in-the-gut-part-2/
Gut Bacteria and Creeping Fat in Autoimmunity https://sanctuaryfunctionalmedicine.com/2020/10/gut-bacteria-and-creeping-fat-in-autoimmunity/
Dysbiosis – Gut Neighborhood Cooties Part 1 https://sanctuaryfunctionalmedicine.com/2018/02/dysbiosis-gut-neighborhood-cooties-part-1/
Monica Viladomiu et al. Adherent-invasive E. coli metabolism of propanediol in Crohn’s disease regulates phagocytes to drive intestinal inflammation. Cell Host and Microbe, 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2021.01.002
Thanks to Science Daily:
Weill Cornell Medicine. “Study identifies ‘Achilles heel’ of bacteria linked to Crohn’s disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210205155805.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.