Patients who have gut difficulties, medical conditions, or who have had gut surgery, that affects their digestive (gastrointestinal) system usually have special dietary needs. While diet may not solve the gut problems, making supportive dietary changes can help manage specific gut or digestive problems.
Gastroenterology is a specialist interest of mine, and when your gut is not working properly, it is important to look at the diet and work out what adjustments may be needed to help work around the difficulties or function challenges.
I also provide nutritional counseling before and after gastrointestinal surgery for optimum health and recovery. Nutrition is also important to help optimise bowel function, gut and bowel health (gut bacteria or microbiomes).
The following dietary conditions can benefit from nutritional assessment and review.
Coeliac disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis
A gluten-free diet is currently the only treatment for coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. I educate and support people who have these conditions to make sure they get the correct nutrients without consuming gluten. The wrong diet can lead to tiredness, iron deficiency, calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, abdominal pain, weight loss or altered bowel habit.
Malnutrition is very common among people with this disease, and I help patients to manage it through therapeutic treatment and nutritional counseling. Diet modification can also help people who are in remission but struggling with bloating, pain, and abnormal bowel function.
There is currently no established dietary treatment for ulcerative colitis. However, as with crohn’s disease, nutritional support plays a valuable role.
For example some people may find symptom relief from a low-fibre or low lactose diet when the disease is active. However, if you do exclude certain foods, you must make sure you have an adequate diet.
I support patients by making sure they get the correct nutrients in their diet and by giving them healthy eating advice.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
I advise patients on dietary modifications that will help improve symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, wind and bloating. For example, some sufferers may have sensitivity to fibre or in fact not be eating the right balance or enough of certain fibres. They may be sensitive to fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs), or occasionally food intolerance, which can exacerbate these symptoms. While there is now a lot of information available on the net about the FODMAP diet, it is a complicated diet with lots of nuances around how it should be used. For this reason, it is recommended that you work with a qualified dietitian to ensure that your bowel function issues are appropriately managed and that the FODMAP diet is applied correctly to your needs.
I also see patients with other conditions that can be helped by individually tailored dietary advice. They include pancreatitis, gastrectomy (stomach removal), intestinal failure, bowel resection to form an ileostomy, or colostomy and other forms of gastro-intestinal surgery.
Depending on your gastrointestinal condition, a healthy diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables and plenty of water may help improve your digestive health. And of course, you’ll need to avoid some unhealthy foods too. However some conditions require novel or adjusted dietary approaches to help in their management.