What's new in nutritional therapy for IBD?
Eating to help the gut heal itself is one of the new concepts in IBD treatment, and numerous experimental studies are being conducted in this area. Fish or flaxseed oils, in the diet or as supplements, have been used to help fight the inflammation in IBD. The complex carbohydrates that are not digested by the small bowel, such as psyllium, stimulate the bacteria in the colon to produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids help the mucosa (the lining) of the colon to heal itself.
Another approach is the use of probiotics, which are just beginning to be appreciated as a therapeutic aid in IBD. Probiotics are "good" bacteria that restore balance to the enteric microflora-bacteria that live in everybody's intestine. Lactobacillus preparations and live-culture yogurt can be very helpful in aiding recovery of the intestine. There is much work being done in the use of diet and supplements to aid in the healing of IBD and much more to be learned.
Cancer chemoprevention with minerals (selenium, calcium), vitamins (folic acid) and medications (the 5-ASA drugs seem to fulfill this role for many with IBD) is a developing field, and there will be more about this as new research studies are published.
In summary, while diet and nutrition do not play a role in causing IBD, maintaining a well-balanced diet that is rich in nutrients can help you to live a healthier life. Proper nutrition depends, in large part, on whether you have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, and what part of your intestine is affected. It's important to talk to your doctor (and it also can be helpful to ask your physician to recommend a dietitian) to develop a diet that works for you.
Key Take Away Diet Tips
There is not one set diet that is applicable to everyone with IBD. It is an individualized plan. Modifications in diet depend on the symptoms you experience, the extent of your disease and many other factors determined by the doctor.
Two of the common symptoms of IBD include diarrhea and cramping. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when experiencing these symptoms:
Try: Bananas, white bread, white rice, and cheese (if you're not lactose intolerant), Gatorade and Crystal Light diluted with water, fruit juices, applesauce, smooth peanut butter, bland soft foods, crackers made with white flour, plain cereals, refined pastas, broth, canned varieties of fruit, cooked vegetables, potatoes without skin,eating broiled or steamed fish (e.g. herring, salmon, halibut, flounder, swordfish or pollack), using canola and olive oils, small & frequent meals, nutritional supplements if there is weight loss and if your doctor approves vitamins and mineral supplements.
Avoid: Caffeine in coffee, tea and other beverages, fresh fruits and uncooked vegetables, high-fiber foods (such as fiber-rich breads, cereals, nuts and leafy greens), high sugar foods, skins, seeds, popcorn, high fat foods, spicy foods, raw foods, prunes, beans, large food portions, in some cases dairy products, ice-cold liquids (even water), and too much of any type of liquid.
It is always important to keep a food journal to help you understand the foods you are able to tolerate and not tolerate during the time of a flare. To find an example of a food journal please review the section below entitled " Helpful Diet Links."
If possible, it is helpful to consult with a dietician. They can help you formulate a specific dietary plan for your case. The dietician can also review your food journal to see if there are any patterns in your diet in relation to your symptoms.