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Food is central to so many parts of life but it can be challenging to maintain a positive food-related quality of life when you’re experiencing active disease, symptoms, and distress related to your Crohn’s or colitis.
Below we share some factors that are associated with a better or worse food-related quality of life and some tips that may help you improve your food-related quality of life.
What is food-related to quality of life?
Food-related quality of life is a way of measuring the impact that diet, eating behaviors, and food-related anxiety have on your quality of life.
Factors associated with poorer food-related quality of life in IBD
- Having more recent disease flares
- Having poorer IBD-related quality of life
- Experiencing more distress related to your IBD
- Consuming less fiber, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium
- Engaging in restrictive eating behaviors due to fear of triggering symptoms
- Using a specific diet
Factors associated with better food-related quality of life in IBD
Research suggests that people with IBD who reported a better food-related quality of life were more likely to:
- Have lower disease activity (less severe inflammation)
- Have had a previous IBD-related surgery
- Not use a specific diet
Tips for improving your food-related quality of life
- Adjust your medications to reduce your inflammation and symptoms. If you’re still experiencing inflammation and symptoms, talk to your doctor about adjusting or changing your medication so that it works more effectively.
- Find your trigger foods and swap them out for better tolerated alternatives. Everyone’s trigger foods are unique, so it’s important to find what works best for you in particular. Instead of eliminating a trigger food from your diet, try to find a satisfying alternative to put in its place so you can keep your diet as expansive as possible.
- Give yourself options for dealing with trigger and inflammatory foods. Just because a food triggers symptoms for you does not mean you need to avoid it at all costs. Instead, you can swap it out for an alternative, reduce the portion size, or eat it as is. Sometimes the symptoms are worth it!
- Focus on non-diet approaches to decrease symptoms, anxiety, and stress. Gut-directed hypnotherapy, pelvic floor physical therapy, exercise, and mindfulness-based therapies are all evidence-based non-diet ways to reduce symptoms.
- Work with an IBD dietitian to come up with a personalized nutrition plan. Try to resist using self-imposed diets which can lead to restriction and disordered eating patterns. Instead, work with an IBD dietitian nutritionist (like us!) to implement a personalized nutrition plan to reduce your symptoms and keep your diet as expansive as possible.
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- Whelan K, Murrells T, Morgan M, Cummings F, Stansfield C, Todd A, Sebastian S, Lobo A, Lomer MCE, Lindsay JO, Czuber-Dochan W. Food-related quality of life is impaired in inflammatory bowel disease and associated with reduced intake of key nutrients. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Apr 6;113(4):832-844. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa395. PMID: 33677550.
- Day AS, Yao CK, Costello SP, Andrews JM, Bryant RV. Food-related quality of life in adults with inflammatory bowel disease is associated with restrictive eating behaviour, disease activity and surgery: A prospective multicentre observational study. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2022 Feb;35(1):234-244. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12920. Epub 2021 Jun 11. PMID: 34008222.