Does diet play a role in inflammatory bowel disease?

People who have IBD and are managing it with medication can eat a “normal” diet. Patients who have chronic diarrhea usually switch to a low-roughage diet. Patients who are lactose-intolerant will avoid milk in order to prevent symptoms.

How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?

There is no cure for IBD. In the early stages of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, medication is the recommended treatment. The goal of medical treatment is to control the inflammation and allow the intestines to heal. Once diarrhea and abdominal pain are under control, medical treatment can reduce the number of flare-ups and keep the disease in remission. The most commonly prescribed drugs for IBD are:

  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone and methylprednisolone. These powerful drugs reduce inflammation in the intestines and can help treat fistulas.
  • Aminosalicylates such as sulfasalazine and mesalamine. These are anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs such as 6-mercaptopurine and azathioprine. These drugs can help reduce the dose of corticosteroids the patient has to take.
  • Metronidazole, an antibiotic that also affects the immune system. This drug is helpful for patients who have fissures or abscesses.
  • Biologics, for patients who have moderate to severe IBD. Biologics include infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab, golimumab, natalizumab, and vedolizumab.

Up to three-quarters of Crohn’s disease patients and one-quarter of ulcerative colitis patients will need surgery. The type of operation the patient needs depends on the disease.

In the case of ulcerative colitis, surgery may mean removing the entire colon, especially when medications are not effective or if the patient has severe complications of the disease. Surgery to remove the entire large intestine (colectomy), or both the colon and rectum (proctocolectomy) removes the threat of colon cancer.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy