a mother and a son sitting at a dining table eating

Diet and Nutrition – know what works for you

Understanding the role of food in those living with IBD

Diet and nutrition play an important role in the lives of people with IBD. Some people find that certain foods can be classified triggers and cause a flare up where symptoms are more severe. Some of the symptoms, like inflammation, can then go on to affect the amount of nutrition taken from the food you eat.

Always work with your healthcare team and dietitian to develop a diet and nutrition plan that works for you. While no particular food is thought to cause IBD, there are certain foods that, when consumed, might trigger the immune response in some patients that causes inflammation and symptoms to become worse.

Getting the right amount of key nutrients is essential for IBD patients to maintain overall health. Inflammation caused by IBD prevents the uptake of certain nutrients in the gut, which can lead to side effects such as anaemia, tiredness and a general feeling of being run down. Proper nutrition can also help avoid malnutrition. Signs of malnutrition include weight loss, weakness and a loss of muscle mass. Severe side effects of IBD, such as severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain and frequent stools can also contribute to malnutrition. Malabsorption can also occur, which is the prevention of key nutrients being absorbed due to inflammation. Both malnutrition and malabsorption can lead to weakened bones and growth delays in children. Nutritional treatment may be required – see ‘Nutritional Treatment’.

What to eat

A balanced diet will help support overall health and well-being. Doctors recommend eating six small meals a day and staying hydrated at all times. Use simple cooking techniques like grilling and steaming and avoid frying food. Keep a food journal so that you can keep track of what you have eaten and symptoms that you have experienced.

Food and flare ups

You may already know what types of food you need to avoid during a flare up. Keeping a diary and recording symptoms in response to foods can help you to eliminate foods that may make a flare up worse. Always work with your doctor when trying to work out which food to eliminate to make sure you are still getting all the nutrients you need. If you are in a period of remission, nutrition is still very important. Reintroduce foods slowly so you can monitor for any symptoms.

Always talk to your doctor before beginning any modification to your diet, and they can guide you to make sure you are getting all the calories and nutrients you need.