Diet and nutritional factors in inflammatory bowel diseases

World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Jan 21;22(3):895-905. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i3.895.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) development is affected by complex interactions between environmental factors, changes in intestinal flora, various predisposing genetic properties and changes in the immune system. Dietary factors seem to play an underestimated role in the etiopathogenesis and course of the disease. However, research about food and IBD is conflicting. An excessive consumption of sugar, animal fat and linoleic acid is considered a risk factor for IBD development, whereas a high fiber diet and citrus fruit consumption may play a protective role. Also, appropriate nutrition in particular periods of the disease may facilitate achieving or prolonging remissions and most of all, improve the quality of life for patients. During disease exacerbation, a low fiber diet is recommended for most patients. In the remission time, an excessive consumption of alcohol and sulfur products may have a negative effect on the disease course. Attempts are also made at employing diets composed in detail in order to supplement IBD therapy. A diet with a modified carbohydrate composition, a semi-vegetarian diet and a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols are under investigation. Due to chronic inflammation as well as side effects of chronically used medications, patients with IBD are also at increased risk of nutritional factor deficiencies, including iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, folic acid, zinc, magnesium and vitamin A. It should also be remembered that there is no single common diet suitable for all IBD patients; each of them is unique and dietary recommendations must be individually developed for each patient, depending on the course of the disease, past surgical procedures and type of pharmacotherapy.

Keywords: Crohn’s disease; Diet; Nutrition; Supplementation; Ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / epidemiology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Quality of Life
  • Remission Induction
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Gastrointestinal Agents