Could a Fungus Be Causing Crohn’s Disease?

– Written by Kate

I struggled with actually writing the title of this blog post.  You see, I have Crohn’s disease.  I know all about this horrible disease which many have never heard of.  I know more about Crohn’s than your average ER doctor (which can be extremely frustrating when I end up in the ER with a Crohn’s flare, and I’m not even going to get started on the number of med students and/or residents that I’ve had to educate over the years).  I’m not saying this to sound pompous.  It’s just a matter of fact.  Most people living with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease – the 2 most common are Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis) know way too much about IBD because we are forced to advocate for ourselves.  Back to my point about the title of this blog post.  To me, the title can be very misleading.  Why, you may ask?  To me, the title infers that an actual cause for Crohn’s disease has been identified, and it hasn’t.

This most recent study was conducted by an international team of researchers, and was led by the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.  This study assessed the mycobiome and the microbiome of 20 Crohn’s and 28 Crohn’s-free patients from nine families, and 21 Crohn’s-free patients of four families, all living in the same geographic area in Europe. The researchers found strong fungal-bacterial interactions in those with Crohn’s disease: two bacteria (Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens) and one fungus (Candida tropicalis) moved in unison. The presence of all three in the sick family members was significantly higher compared to their healthy relatives, suggesting that the bacteria and fungus interact in the intestines.  Here is a link to a reputable article about the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine study.

There have been numerous news articles that have suggested that this new research study has identified the cause of Crohn’s.  This is extremely frustrating to me because it’s perpetuating even more of the misinformation that surrounds IBD.  Don’t get me wrong, this study is important, and it’s a step in the right direction towards understanding the different factors that may cause Crohn’s disease to develop.  What the research identified for the first time is the relationship between one fungus and two specific bacteria in a subset of patients with Crohn’s disease.  Since the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) launched thier Microbiome Initiative in 2008, their researchers have identified 72 bacterial species and 100 bacterial genes associated with IBD.

There are so many different theories and studies that have been done to try to identify the cause of Crohn’s.  To date, no one has been able to identify one singular cause of Crohn’s disease.  Do I believe that bacteria and fungus play an intrinsic role in Crohn’s disease and IBD as a whole?  Absolutely!  Do I think that addressing the bacteria imbalance and fungus build up can help ease Crohn’s symptoms?  Absolutely!  I am proof of this.  Once I discovered the RIGHT probiotic, my health greatly improved.

There is so much misinformation that is spread about Crohn’s disease, it’s hard to keep up with it all.  I try my best to educate myself on the new studies, medications, surgeries, therapies, and treatment options.  Over the years I’ve tried just about everything under the sun to try to treat my Crohn’s disease.  I’ve taken countless medications (immunosuppressants, steroids, TNF blockers, biologics, and chemotherapy drugs just to name a few types of med that I have tried), I’ve had a bowel resection where 2/3 of my colon and about 1/3 of my small bowel was removed, I did inpatient chemotherapy, I’ve tried countless supplements, and I’ve tried several restrictive diets.

Right now my disease is managed.  I’m not in remission yet (although I’ve been told that I’m close – I’ve actually yet to be in remission in the 7+ years that I’ve been diagnosed with this disease).  I take a combination of conventional medicines, and I also use high quality supplements.  I think that I’ve finally found a combination of things that work for my body.  Everyone is different, and everyone responds differently to treatments.  I don’t claim to be cured.  I’ll always have Crohn’s disease.  I still end up in the hospital.  They only difference is that now I don’t live in the hospital, and my hospital trips as of late have only lasted a few days whereas they used to last for weeks at a time.



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