If you answered yes to the question above, you are not alone. Some of the most common digestive health disorders that affect people in Vancouver, Canada and all of North America are Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. Although these conditions have been a problem for many years, we still don’t have a simple answer when it comes to diet. If you ask your doctor, he or she may tell you diet will not help you. If you ask me, a registered dietitian specializing in digestive health, I will tell you there is enough science to show us that nutrition and diet can have a large impact on managing IBS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) symptoms, as well as improving your overall quality of life.
If you suffer from gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, stomach aches – you may have IBS. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, there is significant research showing that the low FODMAP diet is effective at providing relief of symptoms in 75% of individuals with IBS. Read one of the research studies here for more information. Basically, the low FODMAP diet involves eliminating foods that are high in short chain carbohydrates – such as wheat, dairy products (lactose), and certain vegetables and fruits including garlic and onions – for 6-8 weeks. This is then followed by a reintroduction phase, where each subgroup of high FODMAP foods are reintroduced systematically to pinpoint which are trigger foods for your IBS symptoms. Due to the challenges associated with this diet, it is best implemented with the help of a registered dietitian specializing in the area.
If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (two types of inflammatory bowel disease, which is different than IBS), the low FODMAP diet may help you too! I recently published a review article with a team of two gastroenterologists evaluating all of the clinical trials involving a regular diet (i.e. not including the use of supplements or probiotics, but real food) and their effect on symptom management in individuals with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Will all the research to date, the low FODMAP diet has a lot of potential for symptom relief in IBD patients as well. Specifically for individuals with IBD who may also suffer from IBS symptoms. We are currently doing more research evaluating FODMAPs and Crohn’s disease patients to further the existing research and find more solutions with diet.
Of course, when it comes to Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, you most likely will need medical treatment to manage inflammation in your gut. However, pair this with dietary strategies and it may help reduce inflammation, speed up your recovery, prolong remission time, decrease frequency of flares, help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, as well as help reduce functional gut symptoms that may occur independently to the inflammation (i.e. gas, bloating, abdominal pain). Another good resource if you have IBD is www.trustedtherapies.com.
The bottom line is don’t lose hope! If you have IBS, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis (IBD) – there are dietary solutions out there, and registered dietitians like myself who are more than willing to walk you through it.