Health Medical

Certain fibers can worsen IBD symptoms, says study

fibre diet

HQ Team

November 4, 2022: Doctors advise adding fiber to your diet for a healthy digestive system. It aids in weight management and is generally considered good for overall health.

 And past research shows fiber helps prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and lowers risks for cancer.

But people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are sometimes sensitive to fiber.

Now researchers from the University of Manitoba and the University of Alberta in Canada report that they have found evidence that certain types of fiber can worsen IBD symptoms. The research team is using their findings to develop a stool test for people with IBD to help them avoid symptom flares.

This study was recently published in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.

Dr. Heather Armstrong, an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Manitoba, Canada Research Chair in Integrative Bioscience, and lead author of the new study, said the research was undertaken to better understand the reason for intolerance to a high-fibre diet by some people with IBD.

“ Fibers are not digested. They are fermented by gut microbes — bacteria and fungi,” she explained. “Changes in the microbe of the gut of IBD patients have been linked to reduced fiber fermentation, leading some IBD patients to have increased amounts of remaining unfermented fiber in the gut, but what happens to these fibers remained unknown.”

Doctors believe that not all fibers are harmful to patients with IBD and soluble fibers can be beneficial in some patients. IBD patients need to find more individualised solutions to the fiber problem.

Results of the IBD and fiber study

For the study, the team analyzed colonic biopsies and other tests from people with IBD to analyze the effect of certain types of fibers on their bodies.

The researchers found unfermented dietary β-fructan fibers caused an inflammatory response in participants with IBD whose bodies were unable to break down the fiber. Dietary β-fructan fibers are a type of soluble fiber found in fruits and vegetables. 

“By creating this stool test, we are hoping to be able to tell you how to adjust your diet to prevent flares or further worsening,” the research team said. “It’s a dynamic situation so it’s possible that a certain food you should avoid now, in a few months, you’ll be OK to eat that again.”

More than 6 million people globally suffer from IBD, which is caused due to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s disease develops typically in either the large or small intestine, while ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine, also known as the colon.

Common symptoms of IBD include: diarrhoea, abdominal pain, joint pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression

There is currently no cure for IBD. Doctors treat people with IBD with medications to help reduce and manage symptoms.

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