If you have Crohn’s disease, please go and read the entire article.
When John Maffioli first fell ill at 19, he put it down to the excesses of his life as a university student. But after six months of acute stomach cramps he had lost almost two stone and was suffering extreme fatigue.
He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, where the body’s immune system attacks the digestive tract, causing damage and inflammation.
And he feared the debilitating gut condition would mean a lifetime of medication and even surgery, with an increased risk of cancer.
Remarkably, eight years after his diagnosis, John, who is one of 60,000 Crohn’s sufferers in the UK, is free of symptoms – yet has never had a single drug treatment.
He has run the New York Marathon, regularly plays club rugby, and achieved this medical breakthrough thanks to a simple diet.
John, a 28-year-old accountant, is one of about 1,000 patients who have taken part in a continuing medical trial at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.
But at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, gastroenterologist Professor John Hunter and his team identify foods that act as a ‘trigger’ for symptoms, eliminate them from a patient’s diet and ‘switch off’ the disease.
Now 90 per cent of his patients are symptom-free and 56 per cent can resume a normal diet after five years.
During the first phase of treatment, patients consume only specially formulated drinks.
‘They contain all the nutrients a patient needs, already broken down into their most simple constituent elements so the body does not have to do any work digesting them,’ explains Professor Hunter.
‘By taking the gut out of action, we effectively switch off the disease. After two to three weeks, 90 per cent of patients find their symptoms have disappeared.’
‘But there is no profit to be made from explaining how to control diet, so trials receive no funding and no one ever hears about the treatment, even if it is more effective.’
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), which approves all treatments offered by NHS doctors, has produced detailed guidelines for the use of various drug treatments for Crohn’s disease.
There are, however, no comparable guidelines for dietary approaches.
One consultant gastroenterologist at a major London teaching hospital, who wished to remain anonymous, explains: ‘Exclusion diets are not easy for the patient or supervising doctors; it’s much easier to just hand out a pill.
In the meantime, thousands of patients are left in the dark about the success of dietary management for Crohn’s.