Driving Research to Improve Patients’ Quality of Life

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is called an invisible illness for a reason. It can have a debilitating effect on your quality of life while others may not understand or be able to see that you are sick. It doesn’t help that many patients are reluctant to speak about their disease. As Mike Weinberg, a patient featured in our recent Impact Report, tells us, “It’s not a disease you want to talk about, and I suffered in silence.”


This is why addressing unmet patient needs is our top priority as we set our research agenda. Last year, we invested $32 million in 200+ research projects, bringing our total investment in research to $446 million over the past five decades.


We are dedicated to finding cures for IBD and we’re as committed to investing in research designed to address issues that impact IBD patients’ daily lives, such as chronic pain, diet and nutrition, and the role of stress in IBD. Here are a few examples of research we are leading to help people live better with IBD. 

Uncovering causes and treatments for chronic abdominal pain

Up to 50% of people with IBD struggle with abdominal pain that’s chronic, meaning that it lasts for three months or longer. To understand the causes of such pain and explore effective treatments, we brought together patients, gastroenterologists, neurobiologists, and pain specialists to connect, share their expertise and experiences, and help us identify key research gaps in pain as well as research areas with the greatest potential impact. 


We launched our Chronic Abdominal Pain in IBD Initiative and are supporting several pain-related research projects aimed developing safer, more personalized therapies to improve the lives of children and adult IBD patients. 

Exploring the mind-body connection

Patients often report that experiencing psychological stress contributes to worsening physical symptoms. We know that there is a direct connection between the mind and the gut, so we are working to understand exactly how they are connected and to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from specific stress-management techniques. 


For instance, we are funding research to determine whether being exposed to high levels of stress in early childhood translates to more severe disease in preteens and teens with IBD. We are also supporting research that has shown that adult ulcerative colitis patients who exhibit a stronger reaction to stressors are more prone to disease flares. 

Matching patients to the right diet

The most common question we hear from patients is “what can I eat?” Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. To better understand the role of diet and nutrition in IBD and how we can personalize dietary recommendations to individual patients, we launched a Precision Nutrition Initiative. 


This initiative aims to provide the knowledge needed so patients can tailor their diets, based on their unique biological, clinical, and lifestyle characteristics, to feel better and minimize their flares. For example, researchers are working to identify dietary triggers to flares after food reintroduction in children with Crohn’s disease who have reached remission on enteral nutrition (a liquid diet that’s provided via a feeding tube). They are also studying whether these children can remain in remission by transitioning to a solid diet plan called CD-TREAT. 


You can learn more about this research we are supporting in our Fall/Winter Impact Report.