First, a huge round of thanks for all of your comments. I'm really happy to hear all of your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.
Next, to answer some questions (garylouisville and IamCurious): I'm currently completely off medications. The two supplements that I take regularly are Pearl Probiotic Intensive Care (once every 2 days) and Vitamin D3 (5000IU, also once every 2 days). My diet before UC was high fat, high carbohydrate, high protein, high sweets. I was and still am a middle distance track runner and my dietary focus back then was simply on calories and carbohydrates. Since UC I've cut out red meat, all alcohol, diary, significantly reduced my intake of gluten (though I cheat from time to time) and based the majority of foods on vegetables and fruits. As for protein and fats, I stick with anything high in omega-3, so mostly sea food. With it I am able to stay in remission without medication, resume training and get back to the same level of fitness I had prior to UC.
My own experiences persuaded me to believe that diet plays a role in managing the conditions of UC. That said, the point here to be made is that as a collective our experiences are immensely diverse. So when it comes to the question of whether diet affects UC and there are two divided camps, there is no just or rational way for anyone to say who is right and who is wrong because we are all so darn peculiar.
I read a lot of comments concerning the volume of variables in this study. Indeed, the sheer number of variables is non-trivial. Of these variables, I also agree that probably the most important one is whether one is medication. And if so, which ones, in what amounts, for how long, etc. As you say, medications complicate the analysis because it has arguably the most effect in modulating the conditions of UC. To find a way to isolate the effects of *that* component so to identify what underlying effect diets may have will be a challenging task and demands careful consideration.
Perhaps one way around this issue to only consider data from those who have achieved remission *and* are currently off of medications. Though I imagine this group may be small (?). This approach would better isolate for the effects of nutrition. A possible way to implement this is to analyze the subsets of data separately. This way we can control what we want to look at while keeping the survey
open to everyone.
As Guardian7 mentioned, surveys are indeed notorious for inaccurate information. This is why if such a project is undertaken, an significant effort must be taken to insure that the survey is set up right. What comes to mind is that it needs to have the following features, at least, (1) user-friendly (2) efficient, so not time consuming and (3) asks the correct questions so we can extract the precisely the data we want.
Finally, I want to bring forward the point that although I'm using this term "diet" I mean it loosely. To our bodies the food which we put in is not food in the way we think of it. Instead it is a collection of chemicals. At the level of our disorder, we're concerned about
the vitamins, the minerals, the particular chemicals that are inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. One way I have been thinking about
this problem is taking the "food" we eat and transforming that into a profile of of it's constituent chemicals. For example, we gather the food intake of a person on a daily or weekly basis and we create a nutrient-chemical profile map for that person, ie, that person consumed this quantity of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, calcium, omega 3, lyc
opene, gluten, alcohol, refined sugars. etc. This way, we can sort of probe the question: how does these different chemical profiles relate to manifestations of the disease (if they are related at all). Do you guys think it's viable to cast the question in this context?
Looking forward to more discussion! I like Abraham Lincoln's quote "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Preparation is vital.
Post Edited (tx213) : 6/6/2014 5:05:13 AM (GMT-6)