• 40% of Canadians experience gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms of abdominal pain and change in bowel habit. The most common causes of these problems are due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Both of these conditions have a significant impact on the quality of life of persons affected and their caregivers. The causes of IBS and IBD are unknown and the current available treatments are not effective in everyone.
  • Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world with 6 million Canadians affected.
  • The lifetime risk for a Canadian to develop IBS is 30%.
  • IBS can begin in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood and can resolve unexpectedly for periods throughout an individual’s lifespan, recurring at any age.
  • IBS costs Canadians an estimated $6.5 billion in health care costs and $8 billion in lost productivity each year.
  • Canada also has the highest rates of IBD in the world, affecting 1 in 150 Canadians. IBD is primarily made up of two diseases: ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). IBD can be diagnosed at any age, but people are more frequently diagnosed before the age of 30.
  • Over 10,000 new cases of IBD are diagnosed every year and the rates are rising most rapidly in children under 10 years old. Many of those living with IBD will need surgery.
  • IBD costs Canadians an estimated $2.8 billion in health care and lost productivity costs each year.
  • People living with GI disorders have higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to the general population and patients with anxiety and depression are reported to have more GI symptoms. These observations are summarized in a theory known as the “gut-brain axis”. Our work will shed light on the gut-brain axis which will have great impact on those affected by GI disorders and other chronic diseases.
  • Diet may play an important role in IBS and IBD either directly, in the form of food intolerances or indirectly, by changing the gut microbiome and driving immune responses.
Who we are

The IMAGINE (Inflammation, Microbiome, and Alimentation: Gastro-Intestinal and Neuropsychiatric Effects) Chronic Disease Network involves 17 hospitals/universities and 75 researchers across Canada who will study the interactions between the inflammation, microbiome, diet and mental health in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  The IMAGINE Network is one of five chronic disease networks in the SPOR (Strategy for Patient Oriented Research) initiative of CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research).


Our Mission

Transform the management of IBD and IBS and associated mental health issues with these disorders.

Our Goals

The overall aim of IMAGINE Network is to understand the interactions between diet-microbiome-host and find new therapies for the treatment of IBS, IBD and associated psychiatric disorders.

  • Develop innovative therapies (changes in diet, probiotics, fecal transplants or antibiotics) to improve IBD, IBS and mental health
  • Improve outcomes of existing therapies through the assessment of diet-microbiome-host interactions
  • Develop strategies to optimize current therapies to target those who will most benefit from medication as well as identify those in whom medication can be safely discontinued with significant personal benefit and cost savings to the Canadian healthcare system

Performance Logic Model