Diet and nutrition have an important role in the prevention, treatment and management of diseases. Notable examples of diseases whose prevention, treatment and management rely, to a large extent, on diet and nutrition include diabetes and heart disease. Inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, is another condition which is affected by diet and nutrition, either making it better or worse. The effects of diet and nutrition on IBD are discussed below.
Inflammatory bowel disease usually manifests as two distinct disorders, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, whose symptoms and management have both similarities and differences. Diet and nutrition play an important role in the management of both these conditions. Diet and nutrition is not only important because of inadequate nutrient intake in IBD, but also due to inefficient nutrient absorption. The nutritional burden on the body is further increased by inflammation and gastrointestinal bleeding which cause a lot of tissue damage and require a lot of nutritional intake to repair.
The diet and nutritional implications of inflammatory bowel disease are many and varied, and need need to be addressed in order for the condition to be well managed and controlled. Some of the dietary considerations include:
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Energy: Poor appetite, coupled with inefficient absorption of nutrients , may lead to a lack of energy. This is further compounded by tissue damage due to inflammation, which needs further nutrients to repair and correct. A balanced diet comprising of energy-dense and nutrient-dense foods should help.
Proteins: Because of the inflammation and tissue damage, in addition to the nutrient loss due to inefficient absorption, a lot of proteins are needed for tissue repair. Protein deficiencies need to be corrected in order to prevent muscle wasting.
Fat Soluble Vitamins: IBD may lead to bile salt deficiency. Bile salts are needed for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Without the bile salts, absorption of these nutrients is reduced leading to deficiencies.
Vitamin B: Impaired nutrient absorptin may also affect some B vitamins, especially vitamin B12 and folate. Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, may further make nutrient malabsortion worse leading to vitamin B deficiencies. The deficiencies may be corrected with a regular balanced diet containing loads of green vegetables and whole grains.
Iron and vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables tend to cause diarrhoea and are one of the most likely to be omitted from the diet, leading to vitamin C difficiency. Lack of vitamin C makes iron absorption difficult. In addition to the inefficient iron absorption, a lot of iron is lost with the blood due to gastrointestinal bleeding, making the problem worse.
Mineral Deficiencies: This may be caused by the generally ineffective nutrient absorption. Another contributory factor is an avoidence of certain food items, like dairy, fruits and vegetables, which are deemed to cause diarrhoea. Some of the symptoms of IBD are diarrhoea and vomiting, which may lead to sodium and potassium loss, culminating in the disturbance of the electrolyte balance.
From the above discussion, it is evident that diet and nutritional measures are necessary in order to correct any nutrient deficiencies due to IBD, as well as helping to control the IBD symptoms. A well balanced diet and healthy eating plan, together with medication, go a long way in aleviating the IBD symptoms, as well as preventing nutrient deficiences. Normal diets can be supplemeted with nutritional supplements to ensure adequate nutrient intake.