Is there any food I can eat? Living with inflammatory bowel disease and/or irritable bowel syndrome

Clin Nurse Spec. 2006 Sep-Oct;20(5):241-7. doi: 10.1097/00002800-200609000-00011.


Introduction: Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) and irritable bowel syndrome are chronic, debilitating gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. There are no known causes of inflammatory bowel disease and/or irritable bowel syndrome. Both of these GI conditions significantly impair quality of life and the ability to complete activities of daily living. Unfortunately, there has been little education and research surrounding the evaluation of effective coping strategies with respect to GI disorders, particularly from the perspective of those diagnosed. As such, exploring the strategies of individuals with GI disorders would provide information concerning coping strategies from the perspective of those afflicted.

Purpose: The overall objective of this research was to explore the lived experience of women who had been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and/or irritable bowel syndrome. This article specifically explores the relationship between food and irritable bowel syndrome and/or inflammatory bowel disease.

Methods: Eight females, diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and/or irritable bowel syndrome, were recruited via on-campus posters from a university in southern Ontario, Canada. Qualitative information was collected in the form of background questionnaires, e-mail interviews, and face-to-face interviews, which were subsequently analyzed for trends.

Results: Every woman reported that one of the most significant means by which to cope with their condition centered around food consumption or controlling their food consumption. Subjects identified the importance of determining their "trigger foods," selecting healthy food choices, the impact of stress, and problems associated with food and travel.

Conclusions: This research, predicated on the narratives of women diagnosed with GI disorders, substantiates the profound effect that food has on conditions of the GI tract. All of the women identified their relationship with food as a dynamic learning process, one that they thought would be a lifelong struggle. The implications for community health nurses in assisting individuals with GI disorders are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Diet / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / etiology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / psychology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / etiology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology
  • Menu Planning
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Ontario
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Toilet Facilities