Definition and Overview

An IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) diet consultation is a discussion with an IBD expert about the patient’s food, nutrition, and, to a certain extent, lifestyle, with the hope of reducing symptoms, managing the condition and treating the disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) commonly refers to two types of conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract. These are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are both chronic disorders.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the lining of the large intestine or the colon. It is characterized by the overreaction of the body’s immune system, which mistakes the bacteria and food present as threats. In the process, the immune activity causes inflammation and ulceration or lesions on the lining, which can be filled with pus.

Crohn’s disease, on the other hand, has a much bigger coverage as it can affect any part of the digestive tract including the mouth and anus while the inflammation can penetrate different walls of the bowel.

Nevertheless, both can share similar symptoms such as rectal bleeding, persistent diarrhea, or urgent bowel movement with loose or watery stool, abdominal pain or cramp, bloody stool, weight loss, fatigue, hormone imbalance and loss of appetite.

IBD can be treated in many ways including surgery and medication. However, nutrition also plays a huge role as certain types of food and drink can trigger more inflammation, worsening the symptoms or even the condition.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

IBD diet is recommended for those:

  • Who are diagnosed with IBD – It’s essential that the patient is officially diagnosed with IBD since the symptoms can mimic other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or even colon cancer. A gastroenterologist is the best person to diagnose IBD since he is an expert in the digestive tract.

  • Who have worsening symptoms – Symptoms are not only cumbersome or embarrassing, but they can also generally affect the patient’s overall quality of life and introduce life-threatening situations. For instance, constant diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which may then cause organ failure They can also interfere with the daily activities of the patient, including work.

  • Whose current diet is not working – It’s possible that the patient has already been provided with an IBD diet but such proves to be ineffective. The patient may request for a modification or look for another food expert who can create a new and hopefully more effective diet plan.

  • Who require more help in lifestyle change – An IBD patient needs a complete balance of nutrition and avoidance of smoking, alcohol and certain types of drugs to decrease further inflammation. An IBD diet expert can also provide counseling to help the patient cope and follow the needed lifestyle changes.

  • Who have gone through surgery – In certain cases, surgery seems to be the viable option for the patient, particularly if the gastrointestinal tract is already significantly damaged. A good diet can be a complement to prevent complications.

How Does the Procedure Work?

An IBD patient may undergo diet consultation once he is diagnosed with the condition. He is often referred by the doctor who has made the diagnosis, although the same doctor can also provide the diet plan if he has the knowledge, skill and expertise in the field.

During the consultation, the food expert, who can also be a dietitian or a nutritionist, revisits the patient’s diagnosis through his medical records and family history. He may also ask the patient about his overall health condition, symptoms, medications and other treatment modalities and the doctor's prognosis.

The food expert then analyzes the food and dietary plan of the patient. The main goal of the IBD diet is not to reject certain food groups unless there’s a preexisting illness that makes it necessary, but to combine them in the right amounts so the patient will receive his much-needed nutrition while minimizing symptoms and need for more treatment like medications.

The diet plan is highly customized for the patient. It may include a set of menu to be followed for a particular period or a list of food and drinks that can be consumed in moderate or very little amounts.

More consultations and follow-ups will be scheduled to keep track of the patient’s response to the IBD diet, which can be modified or changed entirely when needed.

Possible Risks and Complications

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no scientific evidence that suggests some of the food groups make IBD worse and thus must be avoided at all costs. However, some patients may decide to do so, which may only result in a more serious case of malnutrition. Patients may also have a hard time following the dietary recommendations.


  • Lichenstein GR. Inflammatory bowel disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 143.
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