Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is the medical term referring to any inflammatory condition of the large or small intestine. The major types are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, but there are other less common types or more specific diagnoses depending on which area of the gut is affected. Because of the name and symptoms, IBD or often confused with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Ulcerative colitis is where the colon and/or rectum are affected, the gut mucosa is inflamed and there's the presence of ulcers and open sores in the colon. Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from mouth to anus, although a majority of the cases start in the terminal ileum. Both are autoimmune diseases. Although very different diseases, both colitis and Crohn's may present with any of the following symptoms: abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloody stools, weight loss and various associated complaints or diseases like arthritis, pyoderma gangrenosum, and primary sclerosing cholangitis. Although often thought as solely bowel diseases, they should be thought of as systemic disease due to involvement of other parts of the body.
Diagnosis for IBD is generally by colonoscopy with a biopsy of pathological lesions. However, associated blood tests and endoscopy may also need to be performed.
Causes of colitis and Crohn's disease are not known, though there is a genetic link to susceptibility and both are characterised by periods of relapses and remission. Aims of treatment are to maintain remission long term, where the individual has no symptoms. There is really no set diet to be sure of preventing symptoms, but certain environmental factors can trigger a relapse.
Treatment is by anti-inflammatory drugs which may be administered orally or anally, immuno-suppression and immuno-biological therapy to control the immune response. In sever cases removal of part of or all of the colon is considered a cure for the disease, but this is accompanied by complications. In addition a low residue diet can be used during a relapse to rest the bowel and help bring on remission. A low residue diet, however, must be considered as a treatment and is not a long term diet. If symptoms do not subside after a few weeks, then it should be stopped and a normal fibre diet resumed and alternative treatment considered. A low residue diet should only be followed upon advice from a doctor or dietitian. Low residue diet for the treatment of IBD.
There is no set diet for colitis or Crohn's, but a good healthy diet of moderate fibre, should be adhered to both when in remission and when suffering with a relapse. During relapse a good protein and energy intake is important as there may be some weight loss. Also ensure good intake of vitamins and minerals in particularly iron, due to risk of deficiency due to bleeding. Appetite may also be adversely affected during a relapse, and if this is the case, it's important to find foods which are enjoyed. A low irritant diet which may be followed in IBS may be of help in mild relapses of colitis.
The following meal plan is an example plan of a healthy diet which an IBD sufferer should follow. It encourages a good intake of a variety of foods. Use this to give you an idea of what are healthy nutritious foods to include, but don't forget to vary your food choices and to drink plenty of water through the day. Remember to check with your doctor or dietitian before following this plan.