Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel illness that affects about 500,000 people in the United States.
Young individuals, smokers, and those who have a close family member with IBD are the most likely to develop it.
Diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss are some of the symptoms. Dietary changes, medication, and surgery are currently used to try to prevent symptom flare-ups.
Now, a new study presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2022 suggests that children who grow up with dogs or in large families may be less likely to develop Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease.
William Turpin, the study’s senior author says that the findings of the study “suggests that a lack of early exposure to microbes may lead to a lack of immune regulation toward environmental microbes.”
Nearly 4,300 first-degree relatives of individuals with Crohn’s disease participated in the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Genetic, Environmental, and Microbial (CCC-GEM) project filled out an environmental questionnaire. Dr. Turpin and his team looked at several environmental factors, such as the size of the family, whether or not there were dogs or cats as pets, the number of bathrooms in the house, living on a farm, drinking unpasteurized milk, and drinking well water. The age of the subjects at the time of exposure was also taken into account.
The researchers discovered being around dogs, especially between the ages of 5 and 15, was linked to a healthy gut permeability, a balance between the microbes in the gut and the body’s immune response, and a lower risk of Crohn’s disease. All age groups saw the same effects when they were around dogs.
“We did not see the same results with cats,” Dr. Turpin adds, “though we are still trying to determine why.” “It could potentially be because dog owners get outside more often with their pets or live in areas with more green space, which has been shown previously to protect against Crohn’s.”
In the first year of life, living with three or more members of the same family group appears to be a protective factor. Scientists think that the gut microbiome has something to do with inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Dr. Turpin and his colleagues hope that their findings will help doctors ask specific questions of patients to determine who is most at danger. However, because the early life environmental factors were measured using questionnaires, he cautioned that the results should be interpreted with caution due to probable recollection bias during recruitment. The reasons why having a dog and having a larger family appear to protect you from Crohn’s disease are unknown.
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