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Crohn's and colitis diet information on the internet could mislead

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers explore conflicting diet information on the internet for IBD

Because there is so much conflicting information, patients with IBD often turn to forums and the internet to find out what diet can help Crohn's disease and colitis. Researchers recently reviewed dietary advice found on websites in an effort to determine what sort of diets are advocated for patients with IBD. The question remains whether the diets help or harm.


The conclusion of the investigation is that there is a dire need for studies about how specific foods might impact gut bacteria to influence the course of IBD,Some diets are restrictive, conflicting and may lead to nutritional deficiencies in addition to being unnecessary.

Conflicting IBD diets on the internet

In their review , investigators focused on top website queries related to diet and IBD.

The found conflicting information, primarily related to fruit and vegetable consumption.

Exceptions were cruciferous vegetables, alcohol, carbonated beverages, and sugars, which were recommended to be avoided by one hundred percent of sites investigated. All of the sites reviewed also recommended including cooked vegetables, poultry, and lean protein.

For Crohn's disease, 100 percent of sites recommended excluding fatty and fried foods, compared 71 percent of UC sites.

The study authors write: "Our Web search analysis demonstrated that patient-targeted dietary recommendations are highly restrictive and frequently conflicting. These recommendations may result in patient confusion and unnecessarily restrictive diets in patients who are already at risk for nutritional deficiencies."

Specific diets

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Anyone diagnosed with IBD understands diet does has an impact on the severity of their disease, yet long-term studies are lacking about diet’s influence on Crohn’s and colitis outcomes.

The investigators for the current study recognize recent focus on the role of gut bacteria and inflammation that accompanies IBD.

Three diets that are advocated for Crohn's disease and colitis that can help "in theory" but have not undergone rigorous scientific study include the fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, and monosaccharides (FODMAP) diet; the Paleolithic diet (Paleo) and the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD).

The SCD diet is carbohydrate and glucose, fructose, and galactose restrictive. The FODMAP diet suggests restricting many, but not all, fruits and vegetables.

Carbohydrates to be avoided are poorly absorbed and could lead to bacterial overgrowth in the intestines that could lead to symptoms from worsening inflammation.

The Paleolithic diet is recommended because it more closely resembles that of our ancestors and may be more friendly to the gut. But the study authors warn there is no mechanistic theory supporting the the diet can quell inflammation. “There are multiple variations of the Paleo diet published in the lay literature, including the Caveman, Stone-Age, and Hunter-gatherer diets,” the authors write.

The finding underscores the frustration about lack of dietary guidelines from the medical community for IBD felt by those diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and colitis, which is often expressed in internet forums.

The researchers say there is scientific evidence for environmental triggers for Crohn’s disease and colitis, one of which could be diet. However, studies are needed in order to make recommendations about eating specific foods for IBD.

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Image credit: Pixabay