Enteral feeding in inflammatory bowel disease

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Purpose of review

Treatment algorithms for inflammatory bowel disease are changing rapidly. Increased and earlier use of immunomodulatory drugs and availability of biologic agents have reduced dependence on corticosteroids and made mucosal healing a realistic goal. It is timely to debate the role of enteral nutrition in this evolving therapeutic armamentarium for Crohn's disease, and to examine the mechanisms of its anti-inflammatory effects in light of current understanding of disease pathogenesis.

Recent findings

Clinical studies have suggested that response to enteral nutrition is associated with decreased mucosal inflammation in Crohn's disease, that isolated Crohn's colitis is less responsive and that exclusive enteral nutrition is required. Basic research has demonstrated that lipids in the intestinal lumen can alter signalling of the mucosal immune system by intestinal epithelial cells. Exclusive enteral nutrition is associated with alteration of enteric microflora.


Enteral nutrition is an efficacious treatment of active inflammation involving the ileum; recent-onset disease may be particularly responsive. The significance of effects on enteric flora deserves further exploration in view of the importance of microbes to disease pathogenesis.

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