Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes a group of conditions whose two main forms are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These diseases cause inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract and disrupt the body’s capacity to digest and absorb nutrients. People with IBD may experience acute periods of symptoms (active phase) and other periods when their symptoms are absent (remission). Signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stools, decreased appetite, and weight loss. The exact cause of these diseases remains unknown and, therefore, there is no cure.
Changes in eating habits can potentially allow people with IBD to:
Here are some general tips for IBD:
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially in iron, calcium, and vitamin D, are common in people with IBD, putting them at risk of anemia and bone density loss. In the active period of the disease, the absorption of vitamins and minerals may be decreased, which increases the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies. It is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement during the months of October to April, and year-round for people 50 years of age and older. It is important to have an optimal intake of omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation. It is recommended to consume fish at least three times a week. People who follow a plant-based diet, or who do not consume fish, may consider taking an omega-3 supplement. It is important to consult a doctor and do a blood test to identify nutrient deficiencies and determine if supplements are necessary. Supplements should never be taken without the prior advice of a health care professional.
Often, people with IBD tend to limit dietary fiber for fear of having digestive symptoms. However, fiber is beneficial for gut health. It is recommended to consume foods that are high in soluble fiber and prebiotics in order to reduce diarrhea and inflammation in the colon, and thus optimize the gut microbiome. A recent study showed that a high-fiber and low-fat diet can reduce inflammation and intestinal dysbiosis, as well as improve the quality of life of patients with ulcerative colitis.
People who are in the active phase of the disease or who have stenosis, that is, a decrease in the width of the intestine that can cause blockages, should follow a low residue diet. However, it might be possible to eat some foods that contain fiber by modifying their texture, such as pureed fruits and vegetables as well as smoothies.