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Nutrition for Nurses

18.2 Nutrition and Chronic Gastrointestinal Illnesses

Nutrition for Nurses18.2 Nutrition and Chronic Gastrointestinal Illnesses

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • 18.2.1 Discuss the impact of nutrition on chronic gastrointestinal disorders.
  • 18.2.2 Discuss the impact of nutrition on acute exacerbation of chronic gastrointestinal disorders.

Nutritional Requirements for Optimal Health With Gastrointestinal Illness

When gastrointestinal illness is present, prebiotics and probiotics are still recommended; however, there are additional recommendations to aid in gut health. High-fiber diets and high water intake are beneficial during nonexacerbation periods in gastrointestinal disease. However,

Safety Alert

Contraindications for High Fiber Intake

When a client is experiencing inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract due to illness such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis (inflammation of diverticula, which are bulging pouches that can form along the intestines), or any other acute condition, high fiber intake is contraindicated because it can irritate the intestinal lining and increase inflammation.

There are basic recommendations for gut health for individuals with gastrointestinal disease. Foods high in saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided because they increase inflammation. Healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, may help decrease inflammation and should be used in place of less healthy fat (Nebraska Medicine, 2022). An anti-inflammatory diet is helpful overall in gastrointestinal illness. Antioxidants found in foods such as avocados, broccoli, spinach, carrots, potatoes, and artichokes may help decrease inflammation. Phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables may help to protect against inflammation (Nebraska Medicine, 2022). The Mediterranean diet follows the principles of anti-inflammatory nutrition.

Alternative Food and Supplement Options

Supplementation for gut health is often needed when gastrointestinal disease is exacerbated and in the inflammatory phase because malabsorptive issues occur most often during this time. Supplementation adds higher levels of needed nutrients to increase the chances of adequate absorption. In some severe cases, parenteral supplementation may be required.

Food alternatives and simple replacements can be beneficial for promoting gut health, whether illness is present or not (Table 18.3).

Food Replacement for Improved Gut Health
Milk Kefir
Sugary drinks Kombucha
Milk, cheese curd, mayonnaise Greek yogurt
Red meats Fruits and vegetables, fish, chicken
Sugary cereals Oats
White bread Sourdough bread
Nonsprouting lentils Sprouting lentils
Table 18.3 Food Replacements to Improve Gut Health (sources: Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, n.d.; Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.; Nebraska Medicine, 2022)
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