Children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn's are usually given powerful steroids - but researchers have discovered that nutritional supplements work just as well.
Up to 70 per cent of children with Crohn's disease have been successfully treated just with a nutritional formula, known as 'astronaut's food'. Steroids achieve a similar success rate, but they can also cause growth retardation and malnutrition.
Dr Raanan Shamir of Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine is pioneering the new therapy, although he has been met with resistance from parents and doctors. "You have to persuade the family. Not all physicians know it works, and it's much easier to give someone a prescription than try to work with the child," he says.
His approach uses a powdered formula, originally designed for astronauts in space, which contains all the nutrients we need. Children with Crohn's disease are given the formula every day for up to eight weeks, and thereafter half their total caloric intake must continue to come from the formula.
(Source: Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, June 3, 2009, published ahead of print).