A critical imbalance of the regulatory cells required to control the immune system might make a person more prone to inflammatory bowel disease: Study from University of Adelaide.
Pathology researcher Dr Nicola Eastaff-Leung reveals that people suffering Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis have fewer numbers of regulatory cells and more "attack" cells that cause inflammation.
"All the food that we eat is foreign to our body," said Eastaff-Leung.
"In healthy people the immune system has a mechanism to tolerate these foods and not react. But some people do not have enough of these regulatory cells and their body overreacts and goes into attack mode. That is where the inflammation occurs," she added.
She hopes that the new discovery may provide a diagnostic tool for gastrointestinal diseases, reducing the need for colonoscopies in future.
"If we can establish that all people suffering Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis have an imbalance of these regulatory cells, we may be able to develop a blood test that confirms suspected cases of these diseases," said Eastaff-Leung.
The expert added: "The second, bigger challenge is to work out a treatment that can restore the balance of these cells and also to find out why this imbalance is happening in the first place."
Eastaff-Leung suggests that diet and lifestyle play a significant role in the development of gastrointestinal disease.
"Inflammatory bowel diseases and a lot of other autoimmune diseases are common in Western cultures but are rarely found in the developing or Third World countries.
"We need to look at our diet and also the obsession in Western countries with cleanliness and antibacterial disinfectants, which has gone overboard.
"Children need to be exposed to bacteria as they are developing in order to build their immune system naturally," she added.