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Nutritional therapy is often prescribed to children to treat active Crohn's disease rather than steroids; however this is not common practice with adults.

Steroid use is associated with many side effects including:

  • suppression of the immune system
  • steroid dependence
  • acne
  • fluid retention
  • muscle weakness
  • psychological impacts

In children, nutritional therapy is at least as effective as steroid treatment at controlling Crohn's disease. As well, it may help improve nutritional status, weight gain if needed, enhance bone health, and assist with intestinal mucosal healing with minimal side effects.

The Study

This is an intervention study which has two groups: a liquid diet group and a steroid group. Christchurch gastroenterologists will offer their patients who meet the study criteria the option of using a liquid diet to treat Crohn's disease gut inflammation. Patients can choose whether they would like to use a liquid diet or steroids (if recommended by their gastroenterologist).

Study criteria

  • Diagnosed with Crohn's disease involving the ileum (small bowel)
  • 16 – 40 years old
  • Newly diagnosed with Crohn's disease or has existing Crohn's disease with active inflammation


A liquid diet for 8 weeks with a commercially prepared nutrition formula (e.g. Ensure Plus) and exclusion of all other solids and fluids apart from water
Conventional treatment with corticosteroids as per gastroenterologist and eat and drink as per normal


The purpose of the study is to assess the impact of nutritionally therapy of gut inflammation. Therefore participants have regular blood tests to monitor serum markers of inflammation and nutrition and provide regular stool and urine samples for the assessment of gut inflammation and gut bacteria. Also, changes in body composition and quality of life are assessed throughout the study period.

For further information

Dr Catherine Wall
PhD and New Zealand Registered Dietitian
Department of Paediatrics, University of Otago, Christchurch
PO Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
Tel 64 3 364 0747

PhD Supervisors:

Professor Andrew Day
Department of Paediatrics, University of Otago, Christchurch
PO Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
Tel 64 3 364 0747

Professor Richard Geary
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch
and Consultant Gastroenterologist, Canterbury Health District Health Board

Our People

Catherine Wall
Dr Catherine Wall PhD

Andrew Day
Professor Andrew Day

Richard Gearry
Professor Richard Gearry

Funding bodies

logo - New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology

logo - Australiasian Society of Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition

logo - Dietitians NZ

logo - New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women

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