Gut Disorders

 

Medical nutrition therapy can help improve symptoms of many gastrointestinal conditions such as:

 

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease occurs when small pouches (called 'diverticula') form in the lining of the large bowel. If these pouches become inflamed or infected, this is known as diverticulitis. Symptoms may include altered bowel habits (diarrhoea and/or constipation), abdominal pain and bloating or bleeding.

How can diet therapy help improve symptoms? 

Dietary recommendations depend on whether diverticulitis is active or fully resolved. An individual dietary assessment is important in establishing a care plan and recommendations suited to the stage of disease. For more information on diverticular disease click here

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, is a common brain-gut disorder that affects about 1 in 7 Australians, most of which are women. IBS symptoms are uncomfortable and can often impact a person's quality of life. Symptoms include abdominal pain, excessive wind, diarrhoea and/or constipation and bloating. Due to the overlap of IBS symptoms with other conditions, a medical diagnosis is important to help rule out other conditions. 

How can diet therapy help improve symptoms?

A variety of diet and non-diet strategies can help relieve IBS symptoms. Dietary strategies that may help reduce symptoms include reducing 'gassy' foods, reducing or altering fermentable sugars (also knows as FODMAPs), as well as reducing other foods and drinks known to exacerbate symptoms. 

What is the FODMAP Diet and can it help relieve IBS symptoms?

The FODMAP Diet has been thoroughly researched in the last few years at Monash University. Researchers have found that a low FODMAP diet is efficacious in improving symptoms for many patients with IBS.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs is an acronym that stands for:

Fermentable

Oligosaccharides

Disaccharides

Monosaccharides

And

Polyols

Simply put, FODMAPS are short chain fermentable sugars that can trigger symptoms in people with IBS. The FODMAP Diet is a three-phased diet approach that helps many IBS patients achieve good symptom control. In the Phase 1, a patient avoids high FODMAP foods. About 70 - 80% of patients report symptom improvement within the first week of following a strict low FODMAP diet. For those who respond well to the diet, it is recommended they continue on a low FODMAP diet for at least another 4 - 6 weeks. In the Phase 2, individual FODMAPs are re-introduced systematically and incrementally into the diet, as tolerated by the patient. This helps to ascertain tolerance levels of individual FODMAPs. In the last step of the diet, well tolerated FODMAPs are introduced back into the diet so to increase nutritional variety and optimize gut health all whilst controlling gut symptoms. A FODMAP Diet should be undertaken under the guidance of an experienced, FODMAP-trained dietitian. Furthermore, not everyone is suited to a low FODMAP diet, e.g. individuals with a history of an eating disorder, for which further dietary restrictions may prove unhelpful.

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is a condition in which the body mounts an immune response against gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grain foods such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. The only way to treat coeliac disease is through a life-long gluten free diet.

This is because in people with coeliac disease, consumption of gluten leads to damage to the villi, the finger-like projections in the intestine. Damage to the villi makes them less able to absorb important nutrients. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, e.g. iron deficiency, which can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, and its accompanying symptoms of fatigue and weakness. Other common side effects include weight loss, osteoporosis and gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea and bloating. Other more serious, long term complications that can result from untreated coeliac disease include infertility, gastrointestinal cancer and increased risk of other autoimmune conditions. 

 

 

Image courtesy of Coeliac New Zealand

How can diet therapy help improve symptoms? 

A definitive coeliac diagnosis is imperative prior to the initiation of a strict gluten-free diet.  A dietetic assessment can help determine a coeliac patient's nutritional status and help rectify any nutrient deficiencies. Nutrition education and monitoring is important to ensure the patient is able to adhere to nutritionally balanced, strict gluten-free diet for life, thereby avoiding complications both in the short and long term.