First of all let’s recap what IBD is….
IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) includes both Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis – inflammatory conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract (anywhere from the mouth to the anus), otherwise know as “the gut”.
Ulcerative Colitis only impacts the large bowel (colon) but Crohns disease can occur anywhere in the gut.
The symptoms that people experience with IBD can depend on the severity of the inflammation and where the inflammation is located in the gut. Symptoms may include stomach pain, nausea, bloating, lots of wind, diarrhoea and constipation. As you can imagine, often people with these symptoms don’t have a great appetite and can lose weight.
Some people with IBD may have symptoms most of the time; others may have periods when the disease is “inactive” and they are symptom free. ‘Flare ups’ are time periods when symptoms return. Flare ups can be due to IBD activity or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which affects 60% of people with IBD.
We do not yet know what causes IBD, but evidence points toward problems with the immune system.
Does diet cause IBD?
To date, there is no evidence that IBD is caused by specific foods, food allergies or food intolerances.
There is no (solid) evidence showing that:
- Dairy causes IBD
- Wheat allergy or intolerance causes IBD
- Food additives or preservatives cause IBD
- Gluten causes IBD
Is Diet Important?
Whilst diet does not cause IBD, diet is very important in helping those with IBD stay well nourished and healthy as possible. This means eating a wide variety of foods from all of the 5 food groups.
Many people with active disease can have poor nutritional status due to poor appetite and food intake due to symptoms. Absorption of nutrients can also be reduced as inflammation can impact on the digestion process.
Iron, Vitamin C and fibre are specific nutrients important to focus on in IBD, as well as calcium, zinc, Vitamin B12 and adequate fluids.
For more information on each of these nutrients, keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs on the topic.
Accredited Practicing Dietitian