Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is characterized by chronic, relapsing inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and includes Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).
The gold standard induction therapy for treating active pediatric CD is “exclusive enteral nutrition” (EEN), which is a nutritionally complete liquid diet provided by tube feeding that excludes normal food intake. This nutritional strategy is superior to standard induction therapies; however, treatment must be maintained for 6-12 weeks to induce remission, and relapse rates are high after stopping EEN.
To date, EEN in pediatric patients with UC has not been shown to be effective and as a result is not regularly used. Also, the standard enteral formula does not contain fibre and is low in vitamin D, even though both factors lead to beneficial changes in gut bacteria and reduce inflammation in IBD.
Dr. Healey will recruit pediatric CD and UC patients to determine if enteral formula with fibre and concurrent oral vitamin D3 improves IBD beyond standard EEN and medications. Her research will also include undertaking animal studies to explore the mechanisms of this novel EEN strategy. The results of this research could lead to improved treatment strategies and outcomes for children with IBD.