When your stomach is upset, you often think back to what you ate. With more and more people suffering from digestive issues, it’s no wonder they are turning to food-based solutions to help manage their symptoms. A new set of practice guidelines on diet and the gut set out by the World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO) are aimed at collating the current evidence on dietary interventions as a means of managing gastrointestinal conditions. This tool will ensure medical practitioners are up-to-date on which dietary interventions may help treat gut symptoms and that they understand the impact of these interventions on the gut microbiota.
As access to care may vary, the guidelines address practical intervention strategies for different levels of resources. Rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, recommendations can be tailored to different countries, healthcare systems and cultures. And strategies for managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), carbohydrate intolerances (such as lactose intolerance), inflammatory bowel disease, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancer are all present in the new document.
The importance of fibers
Eating more fiber is a key management strategy for many gut diseases and is an element in maintaining a healthy gut microbiota. However, most populations have what is known as a ‘fiber-gap’ (we consume far less fiber than recommended) and this may lead to the exacerbation of gastrointestinal conditions. The new WGO “Diet & the Gut” guidelines suggest ways of reducing the fiber gap, while ensuring adequate treatment of gut symptoms.
Strategies for increasing fiber intake include increasing plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains and pulses, as well as considering fiber supplements. Given that most individuals fail to meet the recommended daily fiber intake rates, all populations are advised to include more of these foods in their diets.
While fiber is often the mainstay in managing a variety of different gastrointestinal issues, there are instances where a lower fiber diet or altering the type of fibers consumed may also be beneficial. The new WGO guidelines include a cascade of recommendations for a low FODMAP diet and other carbohydrate intolerances, as well as a chapter discussing other possible dietary interventions in IBS.
When approaching dietary interventions for alleviating or treating gastrointestinal symptoms, the WGO guidelines state that it is vital that, whenever possible, medical practitioners should engage the services of skilled nutritionists/dietitians to evaluate a given individual’s nutritional status, instruct the patient on new diet plans and monitor progress.
Andrea Hardy Registered Dietitian, Andrea Hardy from Calgary, Canada specializes in gastrointestinal disorders and the gut microbiome. She is recognized as Canada’s gut health dietitian – educating health care professionals and the public on the pivotal role nutrition plays in gut health. You can find her at Ignite Nutrition, or on Twitter (@AndreaHardyRD).