Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD, PhD
A 2022 study from the Netherlands has revealed compelling correlations between diet quality and the symptoms and disease activity in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This study revealed that the diet quality in Dutch patients with IBD – especially with active IBD – or IBS, was inferior to that of healthy controls, as expressed by a decreased absolute intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
This study titled “Diet Quality and Dietary Inflammatory Index in Dutch Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients” was published in Nutrients. Even more, this study found that an inferior diet quality had a different impact on IBD and IBS. In patients with IBD, poor diet quality was linked with both disease activity – as measured by the calprotectin levels – and the symptoms of abdominal pain. Whereas in patients with IBS, it was linked only with the symptoms of abdominal pain and reflux syndrome.
This study examined diet and disease characteristics in 238 patients with IBD (65.5% with Crohn’s disease and 34.5% with ulcerative colitis), 261 patients with IBS (21.5% with IBS-C, 35.6% with IBS-D, 39.5% with IBS-M, and 3.4% with IBS-U), and 195 healthy controls.
What are the Major Implications of This Study?
This study confirms that diet quality is inferior in IBD and IBS patients, especially in those with active disease, which has been indicated in previous studies.
IBS and IBD patients can make dietary adjustments to control their intake of symptom-triggering foods. This can cause a deterioration in their diet quality. In contrast, a low-quality diet can also be one of the causes of IBS and IBD. Low-quality diet may also be a trigger for active disease. Thus, the authors highlight that the correlations found in this study between symptoms and diet quality can be bidirectional. So, the cause and effect relations remain unclear in this study.
Still, this study has some major implications. This study indicates that IBS and IBD patients need detailed dietary counseling and surveillance. This study also reinforces the need for further research on the relationship between diet and IBD/IBS.
What did the Authors of This Study Conclude?
The study authors concluded that some foods might be culprits in both IBS and IBD. Yet, the culprit foods may have different effects on IBD and IBS. While only symptoms could be affected in IBS, those with IBD may also affect disease activity as expressed by increased calprotectin levels.
However, there is a need for more studies to examine the exact cause-effect relationship between diet and IBD/IBS. Nevertheless, IBS and IBD patients need dietary evaluation and counseling.
de Graaf, M., Spooren, C., Hendrix, E., Hesselink, M., Feskens, E., Smolinska, A., Keszthelyi, D., Pierik, M. J., Mujagic, Z., & Jonkers, D. (2022). Diet Quality and Dietary Inflammatory Index in Dutch Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients. Nutrients, 14(9), 1945. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14091945