Monday, May 21, 2012

The Facts about Irritable Bowel Syndrome and
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Have you or anyone you’ve known ever complained of diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain for day on end? Individuals who suffer from either Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) battle these symptoms frequently. One in five Americans has IBS-related symptoms and approximately 1.4 million people suffer from IBD each year in the US. If you haven’t already encountered a person dealing with IBS or IBD-related symptoms, chances are you will.

What is IBS?
IBS is classified as a functional gut disorder caused by an alteration in the function of the intestine without the presence of a structural or biochemical abnormality. While IBS can cause quite a bit of discomfort with symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, the intestines will not be permanently damaged. IBS is more common in women, lower socioeconomic groups, and in people under the age of 50. People with IBS may be more sensitive to stress, large meals, certain foods, medicines, caffeine, or alcohol compared to other people. Fortunately, symptoms can be managed through medication, stress management, and dietary intervention.

What is IBD?
IBD is an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the digestive tract. Excessive inflammation can cause damage. IBD is more common in men and people between the ages of 15-30 years of age. There are two major types of IBD: Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.

Ulcerative Colitis: The inner lining of all or part of the large intestine becomes inflamed. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping abdominal pain, severe urgency to have a bowel movement, nausea, and fever. Complications include deep ulcerations, rupture of the bowel, severe abdominal bloating, and an increased risk of colon cancer.
Crohn’s Disease: Any part of the digestive tract can be affected. The inflammation of Crohn’s disease can extend through the full thickness of the intestinal wall. Symptoms include persistent diarrhea, cramping abdominal pain, fever, and rectal bleeding. Ulcers can develop and blockages from swelling and scar tissue can occur within the intestines.
Nutrition-Related Concerns for IBS and IBD
Nutrient deficiencies are common in people with both IBS and IBD. Dehydration can also be of concern. Due to a lack of appetite and other IBS and IBD-related symptoms, many people unintentionally lose weight and may become underweight or malnourished. For children, growth may be affected and puberty delayed.
Nutrition Recommendations for IBS and IBD
First and foremost, it is important that a person experiencing IBS or IBD-related symptoms seek medical advice from a physician. Symptoms, food sensitivities, and nutritional needs will vary from person to person. A Registered Dietitian is a valuable resource for people with IBS and IBD. A Registered Dietitian can develop a diet to manage symptoms while meeting nutritional needs.
Other nutrition therapy tips include:
  • Keep a food journal to identify food sensitivities
  • Drink 6-8 cups of water per day to prevent dehydration
  • Eat 4-6 small meals daily
  • Consume foods with prebiotics and probiotics such as yogurt with live active cultures or kefir
  • For IBS specifically, meals and snacks should be consumed on a regular schedule. Fiber intake should gradually be increased to 25-35 grams per day. A low-fat diet may also help reduce symptoms.
  • For IBD, if symptoms are present low fiber foods are recommended. When symptoms are not present, fiber intake should gradually increase.
Popular Diets Associated with IBS and IBD
The internet is full of nutrition misinformation that can be misleading and potentially harmful. Many diets associated with IBS and IBD will recommend eliminating certain foods from the diet. Examples include the FODMAP, Paleo, and Specific Carbohydrate diet. It is important to remember that each person has unique nutritional needs and food sensitivities. If you have concerns or are interested in an IBS or IBD-related diet, talk to your doctor and a Registered Dietitian.

Alexandra Moyer
Penn State Dietetic Intern
Lancaster County Extension

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