bacteriaIn February 2006, the BBC News (a London, UK news agency) reported on a study published in the UK medical journal, The Lancet. I’ve printed the article below as it is yet one more piece of evidence that supports my growing conviction that Crohn’s (and colitis, diverticulitis and moderate to severe IBS) are infection-based diseases. The article is also further encouragement for those of you following my Listen To Your IBS or Listen To Your Gut program, or The IBD Remission Diet – all of which focus on balancing the immune system to return to it’s proper functioning (as well as addressing the infectious component). Here’s the article (do you think the makers of Viagra were involved in funding the study??!):

Fresh Theory On Cause Of Crohn’s

A weakened immune system – not an over-active one as had been suspected – may cause the intestinal disorder Crohn’s disease, research suggests.

However, work by University College London (UCL) suggests Crohn’s is more likely to be due to a weakened immune system failing to destroy bacteria.

The Lancet study also suggests the anti-impotence drug Viagra may help to treat the disorder.

Viagra was found to correct low blood flow among Crohn’s sufferers.

“There are several pieces of information that suggest Crohn’s is linked to an abnormality of the immune response, rather than an excessive one” – Dr Alistair Forbes

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes ulcerations in the small and large intestines.

The UCL team compared the immune system response of Crohn’s patients and healthy individuals to minor injuries, such as skin abrasions.

They found the Crohn’s patients produced much lower numbers of infection-fighting white blood cells called neutrophils, and lower quantities of chemicals involved in the inflammatory process.

Blood cells taken from Crohn’s patients also turned out to be abnormal when cultured in the laboratory.

The UCL team also tested Crohn’s patients’ response to bacteria by injecting a harmless form of E. coli under their skin.

This resulted in a huge increase in blood flow to the inflamed area in healthy volunteers – but a much smaller increase in the Crohn’s patients.

The researchers found this abnormally low blood flow could be corrected by treatment with Viagra.

The researchers believe that, because Crohn’s patients have weakened immune systems, they are unable to destroy bacteria that penetrate the intestinal wall.

Thus the bacteria are left to build up in the tissue, stimulating the secretion of inflammatory chemicals that trigger the symptoms of Crohn’s.

Dr Alistair Forbes, medical director of the gut disorder organisation Core, told the BBC News website the work was “very exciting” and consistent with other pieces of work which suggested Crohn’s was linked to a weak immune response.

Dr Forbes said Crohn’s patients had been reported to benefit from a treatment usually given to cancer patients to stimulate the production of white blood cells.

If Crohn’s were an auto-immune disease then one would expect this treatment to make patients worse, rather than better.

In addition, a mutation of a gene linked to Crohn’s was thought to weaken, rather than intensify the immune response.

He said: “The cause of Crohn’s remains unknown, and although there are genetic factors, it is quite clear they don’t explain the whole thing.

“Crohn’s is clearly related to the bacterial flora in the gut, but how is not clear at all.

“There are several pieces of information that suggest Crohn’s is linked to an abnormality of the immune response, rather than an excessive one in the first instance.”


Again, those of you who have the Revised edition of Listen To Your Gut or Listen To Your IBS will already have in your hands detailed instructions for balancing your immune system and eradicating the various infectious agents that may be in your gut – and I hope you’re doing the Workbook! (on the CD-Rom).


Jini Patel Thompson’s books on natural healing for digestive diseases have sold in over 40 different countries. Her health articles have been published in journals and magazines in the U.S., Australia and U.K. www.ListenToYourGut.com

Is Crohn’s Caused By An Overactive Immune System?

6 thoughts on “Is Crohn’s Caused By An Overactive Immune System?

  • I was diagnosed with Lymphocytic Colitis which I understand has too many white blood cells in the colon. I have been following your program, only one drink per day now and using the spouted chia & flax seed powder to help keep stools firmer. Do you have any information that could help me? Would it be helpful for me to get back on some oil of oregano? Do you know of others who have lymphocytic colitis? I would really appreciate your input. And thanks for all the help I have received from your program. Evangeline

    1. Hi Evangeline,

      Jini doesn’t have a protocol for Lymphocytic Colitis specifically but it sounds like you’re on the right track since that’s generally a milder form of IBD than UC or Crohn’s. I’m afraid we can’t comment on your specific condition as we aren’t qualified to do so but if you’re looking for a new opinion (I may have mentioned this to you in an email before so I apologize if that’s the case!), Dr. Paul Goldberg shares methods and protocols with Jini and has read all of her books. He is a very rigorous practitioner and like Jini, has healed himself of a serious chronic illness, so he understands firsthand what you’re going through. We can highly recommend him.


      You can also watch this video for a detailed description of how Dr. Goldberg works and what’s involved with his healing approach:


      Kind regards,
      Customer Care

  • This all makes a lot of sense, but I’m wondering why immuno-suppressant treatments such Remicaid reduce symptoms (ulcers and bleeding for example) if an overactive immune system is not the problem. Any ideas?

  • Kara – the distinction is that the immune response is not caused by “nothing”. It is not an “overreaction”. The immune response is the result of the body (rightly) attacking a pathogen.

    Immunosuppresant drugs suppress the immune system regardless of the cause for immune response. So this is perhaps why these drugs cause so much collateral, or systemic damage. They are preventing the body from doing it’s job and so although the “symptoms” appear to lessen or disappear, the overall condition and infection is actually worsening.

  • Since the Lancet study in 2006 (Crohn’s Disease is more likely to be due to a weakened immune system failing to destroy bacteria rather than an excessive immune response belonging to an auto-immune disease), any updates on its cause?

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