Why We Need to Start Talking About Diet and IBD
Before I begin, let me be clear about what I'm asking in today's post. I'm not going to spend the next 500 words or so telling you about a miracle diet or trying to sell you a supplement.
I'm not going to tell you that diet cured my Crohn's disease because it didn't. But, what I am going to address is that because we talk about so many other aspects of living with inflammatory bowel disease, it makes no sense not to talk openly about the food that we eat.
Diet is a difficult topic with Crohn's and UC
We don't talk about it because having a conversation about diet is difficult. You know what I mean - how often have you tucked into something and been asked 'should you be eating that with your illness?' Or perhaps you've turned down a very fibrous salad; even when you are told 'it'll do you good.'
If we talk about the food we eat or the food we don't, we sometimes end up feeling ashamed or guilty. We can be made to feel as if we're not doing enough to help our bodies or have our disease dismissed as one that is all to do with our lifestyle choices.
Food is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to IBD
This is why doctors often shy away from discussing it altogether. For fear of offending or reducing IBD (when it's complex nature makes food only one piece of a very infuriating puzzle)
Yet, despite the fact there really is no one size fits all approach, basic education on how food works should surely be mandatory for anyone in the throes of a chronic illness. After all, our bodies are already working so much harder than most- it would make sense if patients felt they had the knowledge to be a bit more proactive in supporting it.
Is it okay to eat fiber with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis?
For example, one of the most misunderstood topics around IBD is fiber. Or, what it's known to many of us, 'That stuff that makes you run to the bathroom really quickly. Found in anything green.'
When I was first diagnosed with Crohn's, I avoided this stuff like the plague. Anything green went straight in the bin. It was only when I learned more about nutrition, that I realized there were two types of fiber. And that actually avoiding them both was not a great idea.
Soluble versus insoluble fiber with IBD
I could probably spend a whole article on the topic (and perhaps one day I shall) but soluble fiber (found in sweet potatoes, peeled carrots, and bananas) is actually really soothing for some of us. It swells in liquid to help 'bulk up' your stools. In fact, many people take a Psyllium Husk fiber supplement for diarrhea since it can help make stools more solid.
It's insoluble fiber - the kind found in leafy greens - that might make toilet trips more traumatic. Either way, avoiding fiber completely can impact everything from our cholesterol levels to our gut bacteria.
Diets to feel better with Crohn's or UC
If doctors talked to patients about things like this - like fiber, fat, protein - we'd avoid all the fads that surround IBD. There are so many promised diets that we can barely keep up: from FODMAPs to low residue; from Paleo to Raw Vegan.
In desperation, many will jump from diet to diet in a bind to find the one that works for them. But, rather than trying a new diet, why not take a moment to read about how food actually works? How protein can support your gut. How fiber breaks down in your body. How your blood sugar is helped and hindered by what you eat.
Yes, we are all different. Yes, what works for one will not work for another. But understanding good nutrition is essential for anyone with any sort of chronic disease, regardless of whether you feel food is your trigger. So, let's start talking about food properly and sensibly. Without blame and without any fads.
'Let food be thy medicine?' With IBD, definitely not. 'But let's talk about food alongside our medicine'? Absolutely.
What is your comfort level disclosing your IBD to your employer?