Joan Gavin

Congratulations to dietician Joan Gavin, who has been awarded an HEE Wessex Clinical Academic Transitional Award to conduct preliminary research into the role of nutritional support in inflammatory bowel disease in children that will form the basis for her PhD.

Paediatric Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to a reduced dietary intake and nutrient malabsorption that can significantly impact on growth and pubertal development.  

Crohn’s disease is a life-long condition without a cure, but it is a relapsing remitting disease. The aim of medical and nutritional treatment is to prolong the length of remission between relapses so that patients can enjoy a better quality of life.

Medication is currently used to maintain remission and prevent relapses, but as with all drugs these can have side effects that may affect the long term health of the child. There is less of a focus on the patient’s diet during remission and there are, at present, few nutritional guidelines on what they should eat and drink that may help to prolong length of remission.

Joan’s plan for her PhD is to build on evidence that a 6-8 week diet on a specially formulated milkshake without food can induce remission. She’s interested in whether ongoing treatment with the milkshake at a reduced quantity, alongside normal diet once food is reintroduced, will help to keep them in remission for longer.        

Joan’s plan for this award is to provide preliminary information for the PhD, by investigating what factors influence the child’s compliance with this milkshake, in order to ensure the most acceptable form of this supplement is provided to them in the PhD study. To do this, she plans to ask 77 families with a child who has Crohn’s Disease and treated at Southampton in the last two years to complete a parent and child questionnaire.

As part of her research, Joan will initially interview five families with children who have Crohn’s disease who have experience of using the milkshake alongside their normal diet. She will ask them to consider the types of questions they think it would be most worthwhile asking, using their answers to inform the content of the questionnaire.

By working closely with affected families, she hopes to introduce a practical nutritional supplement that works for them to help to keep their children healthy.