Role of diet in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases

Corticosteroids, frequently prescribed for patients, can be precursors to osteoporosis.

Lcda. Wanda González, nutritionist, dietitian. Photo: Journal of Medicine and Public Health. Fabiola Plaza.

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the main types of inflammatory bowel disease that, between the two, have great similarities. However, there are several differences between them.

In a space dedicated to nutrition of patients, organized by the Arthritis and Rheumatology portal and the Journal of Medicine and Public Health, the Bachelor of nutrition, Wanda Gonzalez Otero explained the fundamental characteristics of these conditions.

“Colitis mainly affects the colon and large intestine. In contrast, Crohn’s disease can cause damage anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract.”

The gastrointestinal tract has, within its functions, to convert ingested food into energy. In addition, it favors the absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals necessary for the body. It also contributes to the process of eliminating waste and toxins.

“The small intestine is made up of three divisions: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the hilum. And I mention this because it’s important for us to know that absorptions of certain vitamins, electrolytes, nutrients, and minerals are going to occur in different parts of the small intestine,” highlighted the nutritionist. “If you have any type of inflammation, you should notify your doctor, because depending on the area where the discomfort is occurring, it may be due to the deficiency of some vitamins and minerals.”

It is important to be able to identify the state of the condition, that is, if there is inflammation and/or active bleeding, in order to determine the type of diet that is best for said patient.

“In many cases, food is not given by mouth, because you have to let the intestinal inflammation go down, so that is where you work, rather, with medical therapy. Now, if the patient tolerates food, a completely low-fiber diet is recommended, since it increases the size of the stool.

We can find fiber in different foods, such as whole grains, whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, among others. We should also avoid the consumption of nuts, seeds, raw vegetables and fruits with shells.

When talking about anti-inflammatory diets, health professionals focus on the consumption of probiotics and prebiotics, as these help restore the gastrointestinal flora. Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote intestinal health and we can find them in products such as yogurts

“It has been seen that, many times, restoring the gastrointestinal microbiota can also help us in managing and delaying the symptoms corresponding to inflammatory bowel diseases.”

On the other hand, prebiotics are foods that are generally found in fiber content and these also act as nutrients for the human microbiota. Generally, they are found in whole grains, bananas, green vegetables, onions, garlic, chives, asparagus, artichokes, among others.

Recommendations for patients with inflammatory bowel disease

1. Keep a food diary: As soon as the foods that exacerbate the symptoms of this disease are identified, the specialist can help you plan the right diet for your needs.

2. During a flare, avoid or reduce foods that make symptoms worse:

Choose dairy products that are low in lactose, such as yogurt, lactose-free milk, and hard cheeses like cheddar.

3. If you have fat in your stool, choose low-fat foods.

4. Instead of frying food, try baking or grilling it.

5. Cook fruits and vegetables without peel, skin, or seeds.

6. Eat a varied and nutritious diet that is rich in calories and protein.

7. Try to eat 3 meals plus 2 or 3 snacks a day. It may be easier to get more calories if you spread out your food intake throughout the day.

“Many times, when we feel unwell, we may tend to eat foods that appeal to us, but they are not necessarily the right foods for that stage of the disease. So it is very important to be aware of what is being consumed, and avoid the consumption of alcoholic, carbonated and caffeinated beverages”, concluded the graduate. Wanda Gonzalez.

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