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Improve IBD Care: Add a Dietitian and Psychologist

Last updated: November 2021

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be complicated and may require a team effort to help you achieve optimal health. It is important to think about health from a holistic perspective that considers physical, nutritional and mental health. When approaching Crohn's or ulcerative colitis from this perspective, you will likely need multiple providers to meet your needs.

Treating Crohn's and ulcerative colitis holistically

Maybe your gastroenterologist mentioned that you would benefit from working with a dietitian or mental health provider. If they have provided recommendations for such providers, that is wonderful! The goal is to find providers skilled in working with patients with IBD.

If your provider has only mentioned these options, but not provided recommendations, you are in luck!

Finding your IBD nutrition expert

To begin, choose a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with training and expertise working with individuals with IBD. RDs/RDNs are food and nutrition experts who have met strict training standards to earn their credentials. It is worth noting that one can call themselves a "nutritionist" without having the same training and expertise as an RD/RDN – so be cautious!

Diets for UC and Crohn's

Diet recommendations may change based on whether you are flaring or in remission. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation provides the following list of specialized diets that may be helpful for some patients with IBD.

  • Carbohydrate exclusion diets
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Low-FODMAP diet
  • Gluten-free diet
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Semi-vegetarian diet

It is important to highlight that these diets are best implemented under the care of an RD/RDN with expertise in IBD and would be individualized to your specific nutritional needs.

Additional resources about nutrition and IBD can be found on the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation website.

Locating a nutrition provider by state

Finding your GI mental health provider

First, choose a mental health specialist – PhD (doctorate), PsyD (doctorate), LPC/LCPC (licensed professional counselor/licensed clinical professional counselor; master's level), LCSW (licensed clinical social worker; master's level) – with training and expertise in working with people with IBD or other GI conditions. Next, you have every right as a potential patient to ask the following questions before establishing care:

  • Have you worked with people who have IBD?
  • Are you familiar with the complexities of IBD?
  • What treatment approaches do you think would be best for my current state of health?

A mental health provider will likely be helpful if they are skilled in cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment-based therapy, and/or medical hypnotherapy.

The answers a provider gives can provide insight into whether you would like to pursue treatment. Even if they are not very familiar with IBD, a compassionate specialist that can articulate a desirable treatment plan could potentially be a good fit!

Additional resources about mental and emotional health and IBD can be found on the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation website.

Locating a GI mental health provider

A list of GI mental health providers can be found in the Rome GI Psych Directory.

If a GI specialist is not in your area, you can locate a mental health provider using PsychologyToday and filter your search for the following:

  • Issues: Anxiety, Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain, Depression, Stress
  • Type of therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment (ACT), Hypnotherapy

Building your Crohn's or UC care team

Assembling a team to manage your IBD will take time. You want to feel comfortable, supported and have the experts you need to meet your health goals. While both experts can be helpful, don't feel pressured to get everyone in place at once. Talk with your doctor to determine where to spend your energy first.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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