More than a million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the name for a group of conditions characterized by inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. While there is no known cure, doctors do know that diet and nutrition play a critical role in helping to manage IBD symptoms—but a new study shows patients and healthcare practitioners may not be talking enough about this key topic.
IBD is triggered by an abnormal immune response, and the most common types are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. As a result of their condition, malnutrition is common among patients with IBD because they are unable to properly digest and absorb food. However, in looking at survey responses from hundreds of IBD patients and care providers, experts at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) have determined that, “Significant gaps in knowledge relating to nutrition in IBD seem to exist.”
Among the key findings was evidence that only 36% of patients regularly discussed nutrition with their health care providers, and less than half of all providers felt they had access to adequate nutritional care resources to assist them in talking to their patients. What’s more, providers admitted they rarely screened for malnutrition among their patients and may be missing critical opportunities to get a head start on IBD care and management.
The study, titled, “Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs Regarding the Role of Nutrition in IBD among Patients and Providers,” was published this month in the IBD Journal and includes a recommendation for better education and access to nutrition information so that health care practitioners can better serve their patients. Experts also expressed the need for a standardized process for assessing the nutrition status of IBD patients.