A Review of Dietary Therapy for IBD and a Vision for the Future

Nutrients. 2019 Apr 26;11(5):947. doi: 10.3390/nu11050947.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract. The rising incidence of IBD has been associated with urbanization and shifts toward a Westernized diet. The intestinal microbiome has been a focus of disease pathogenesis and also therapeutic intervention. Dietary therapy for IBD has been well-studied with exclusive enteral nutrition, a formula-based diet with the exclusion of foods. In addition, interest in food-based exclusion diets has been increasing, with patients and families leading the charge. Challenges with dietary therapy for IBD include the lack of understanding of a detailed mechanistic pathway to explain the impact of diet on IBD pathogenesis and the difficult nature of designing and implementing dietary clinical trials. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated associations and intervention studies have demonstrated efficacy, but specific dietary targets remain as hypotheses at present. Current IBD therapy focuses on suppression of the immune system, yet the incomplete efficacy of present drugs suggests that other therapies must be developed and employed. Dietary interventions, with known ability to modulate the intestinal microbiome, are a unique opportunity to improve outcomes in IBD. Dietary intervention trials are challenging, and capturing both broad dietary patterns as well as exposure to individual food compounds is important. With increasing patient interest and preliminary research in dietary therapy indicating efficacy, it is imperative to further advance the science of utilizing diet in IBD, as well as to support patients by proactively addressing diet within their care plan.

Keywords: Crohn; diet; exclusive enteral nutrition; inflammatory bowel disease; nutrition; ulcerative colitis.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Diet
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / etiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents