Diet and nutrition are important factors in the management of IBD. Diseases such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis are likely to increase the body’s requirements for calories, nutrients and energy.
Is there a specific IBD diet?
Quite simply, the answer is no. There is no evidence that suggests any particular food or diet prevents, cures or causes IBD. There are a few particular diets that are recommended for disease management, however these diets can be restrictive and difficult to follow, so it is best to discuss your individual needs with a dietitian. Diet recommendations are geared toward easing symptoms during flares and ensuring intake of adequate vitamins, nutrients and absorption of vitamins.
Diet needs for an IBD patient are very individualized:
During times of remission, many people can consume a normal diet; during a flare, alterations may need to be made. Those with an intestinal stricture will need to stay on a modified diet until the stricture is treated. Diet needs are based on:
- current symptoms
- whether the person is in remission or experiencing a flare
- location of the disease
- previous surgeries
- whether or not there are nutritional deficiencies present
Not all people are affected the same:
During a flare, some foods may irritate the digestive tract and intensify symptoms. Most people will need to experiment with various foods as not all people are affected the same. Some possible triggers include foods high in fiber (especially insoluble fiber), lactose, high-fat foods, gluten and non-absorbable sugars (sugar alcohols). Ask a dietitian to review these food triggers with you.
The following eating tips may help when you are experiencing symptoms:
- eating smaller meals
- eating more frequent meals
- eating in a non-stressful environment
- avoiding trigger foods
- limiting high-fat or greasy foods and limiting foods high in insoluble fiber (seeds, nuts, beans, fruit, green leafy vegetables)
Patients with IBD will have varying reactions to different foods, and at times, it may be difficult to decipher which foods may be tolerable. A food journal along with symptom tracking can assist the patient and dietitian in deciding the best course of action for each individual. If you would like a sample food journal to fill out, please ask the dietitian.
Overall, medical therapy combined with making healthy food choices and following a well-balanced diet will help aid in disease management.