If you are considering altering your diet, we recommend that you do so under the guidance of a qualified dietitian. Locate your nearest Accredited Practising Dietitian at dietitiansaustralia.org.au
Diet and food allergies do not cause IBD, and long-term special diets are not effective in treating IBD. However, adjusting your diet can help manage some of your symptoms, and can help IBD medications work better.
During flare-ups of disease, some people find that a bland, low-fibre diet is easier to tolerate than one that contains high-fibre or spicy foods. Low-fibre diets are those that avoid fruits and vegetables, nuts, raisins, seeds, bran and whole grains. These diets tend to stimulate less secretion of intestinal fluids and cause less contraction in the small and large intestines and may help to control symptoms such as abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.
A dietitian is a vital member of your clinical team and will assist you to work out a dietary plan that is just right for you. In Australia, Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) must be members of Dietitians’ Australia (DA). You can locate a dietitian near you by visiting the DA website.
Is there a special diet for IBD?
Most people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis tolerate all types of food and don’t require any dietary restrictions. In fact, avoiding certain foods or eliminating an entire food group can contribute to nutritional deficiencies.
During flare-ups of disease, some people find that a bland, low-fibre diet is easier to tolerate than one that contains high-fibre or spicy foods. Low fibre diets are those that restrict the harsh skins and seeds found in some fruits, vegetables and dried fruit, in addition to nuts, seeds and wholegrains.” These diets tend to stimulate less secretion of intestinal fluids and cause less contraction in the small and large intestines and may help to control symptoms such as abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.
Achieving and maintaining overall good nutrition far outweighs any sort of blanket recommendations about diet
In cases of Crohn’s disease when an area of the small intestines has become narrowed (i.e. a ‘stricture’ has developed), a very low-fibre or even a liquid diet may be necessary to minimise the discomfort of abdominal cramping.
For each and every person with IBD, individual experience is the most useful guide to selecting the types of food that can or cannot be tolerated. Foods that cause problems for one person with IBD may not affect you at all. If you follow the ‘foods to avoid’ advice of others with IBD or from internet sources, you may find yourself eating a highly-restricted diet unnecessarily and increasing your risk of malnutrition. Remember, too, that foods you have to avoid during flare-ups may not be a problem when you’re well.
In general, achieving and maintaining overall good nutrition far outweighs any sort of blanket recommendations about diet. If you have a particular liking for a specific type of food, you’re in the best position to decide whether the enjoyment of eating it from time-to-time is worth the possible symptoms such as pain, cramping and bloating.
For more information, see The Inside Story: A Toolkit for Living Well with IBD in the Member’s Only section of this website.
The low FODMAP Diet
The low FODMAP diet, developed by researchers at Monash University, eliminates foods that can be malabsorbed by some people.
FODMAPs stands for a group of carbohydrates Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols that can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine.
This malabsorbtion can cause symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as abdominal bloating, excess wind, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits. Many people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) have adopted the diet and have found it to be helpful, although it does not affect inflammation in the digestive tract, it can reduce these symptoms.
Diet is not the cause of IBD nor is it the cure
There is little evidence to suggest that dietary factors cause IBD. Likewise, it is not possible to make your condition ‘go away’ permanently by adding or eliminating certain foods from your diet, or by eating only particular types of food.
Some people find that a particular food aggravates their symptoms; eliminating this food can make a positive difference. For most people though, the key to managing their condition is to eat a well-balanced diet that includes items from all major food groups.
Missing out on vital nutrients
Malnutrition is a common issue for people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and can have significant consequences if left untreated.