Crohn's disease: 6 out of 10 want to eat freely

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There are about 150.000 thousand people who, in the country alone, are affected by Crohn's disease and so this chronic bowel disease feeds the nutritional discomfort of patients, who especially in pediatric age and adolescence suffer from a limited social life and they feel marginalized by their peers.

In this article

  • Crohn's disease: what it is
  • Young people and social life
  • Main source of information


Read also: Chronic inflammatory bowel disease and breastfeeding: it can be done

Crohn's disease: what it is

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive system. It remains one of the most studied but also least known diseases of the human intestine, with a growing incidence rate. The causes? Many hypotheses, for now, and very few certainties. Genetics has something to do with it (140 mutations have already been identified), as often happens: yet it is not enough. It is characterized by intestinal ulcers, often alternating with sections of healthy intestine; ulcers resulting from inflammation, if not treated, can lead to intestinal narrowing (stenosis) or deepen to create continuity lesions with surrounding organs (fistulas) and / or complicate with the formation of collections of inflammatory material with pus production (abscess). The course of this pathology is chronic and relapsing characterized by the alternation of acute episodes followed by periods of clinical remission.

Young people and social life

For a young person with Crohn's disease, food becomes a source of stress in the family (6 cases out of 10), causes unpleasant situations with friends (about 1 out of 2), complicates school (8 out of 10). This is the picture that emerges from the centre's investigation EngageMinds HUB dell 'Catholic University of Sacred Heart, of the social campaign "Crohnviviamo - Stories of young people that Crohn's disease cannot stop", promoted by Nestlé Health Science - with the support of modules, food for special medical purposes for those with Crohn's disease - in collaboration with the association A.M.I.C.I. Onlus. The study, presented on the occasion of the World Day of Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) of 19 May, highlights the strong impact of nutrition on the quality of life (67%) and daily life (59%) of patients.

Dangerous foods

Leading the way in the list of foods considered most problematic for those with IBD are:

  • spicy foods (76%),
  • alcohol (65%),
  • fried (64%)
  • e fast food (64%),

in line with doctors' recommendations.

This lack of pleasure in food, due to restrictions, is also linked to the worry triggered by the intake of food considered dangerous, which can suddenly make you "run away" to the toilet: 50% of people with IBD, in fact, confirmed that during the week prior to the interview had this kind of concern.

As a result, people with Crohn's disease miss being able to eat and drink like "anyone else." 46% feel the protagonist of "unpleasant situations" when sharing meals with their peers and more than half of the participants believe that managing family meals causes stress.

Foods to limit or avoid

  • Limit dairy products. Many people with inflammatory bowel disease find that problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating improve by limiting or eliminating dairy products. You can also be lactose intolerant (your body cannot digest the milk sugar, ilactose), but this is a chronic condition, in the case of inflammatory bowel diseases these symptoms can only occur in the flare-up phases.
  • Try low-fat foods: In the case of Crohn's disease of the small intestine, you may not be able to digest or absorb fat normally. Then, the fats pass through the intestines, making the diarrhea worse. Avoid butter, margarine, cream and fried foods.
  • Limit the use of fiber: In the case of inflammatory bowel disease, foods rich in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, can make symptoms worse. If raw fruits and vegetables are causing you discomfort, try steaming, or stewing. In general, you may have more problems with foods from the cabbage family, such as broccoli and cauliflower, and nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn. Use a low-fiber diet if you have a narrowing of the bowel (sub-stenosis).
  • Avoid: Spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine can worsen the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Here, therefore, that nutritional discomfort is added to the factor of shame and marginalization, which 41% of the interviewees declared they perceive due to the disease, a feeling also confirmed by 36% of parents. The numbers demonstrate a strong psychological and social impact of the disease, which increases after the onset and diagnosis, which is around 17 years old: the same age as Diego Costi, a young man with Crohn's disease actively involved in the "CrohnViviamo" campaign and Standard Bearer of the Republic of the Paesena for his commitment in the nutrition field, alongside those who, like him, have the disease.

"Usually we talk a lot about the nutritional properties of various foods and their effect on a physical level, but it is often overlooked that what we eat also contributes to nourishing the psychic sphere. Mind and food are closely interconnected and influence each other. Nutrition, in fact, determines not only our physical health, but also mental health, our state of mind, the quality of our thoughts, and even our behaviors. Nutritional treatment is therefore fundamental in these patients, because, proper nutrition serves to improve the quality of life and is part of the theme of the World Day of Chronic Inflammatory Intestinal Diseases 2022, which is celebrated on May 19: the well-being of the person with IBD and the psychological impact of these pathologies. " he pointed out Salvatore leone, General Manager of AMICI Onlus.

Main source of information

The primary source of information regarding IBD is the gastroenterologist, but only 28% of patients contacted him frequently, suggesting the research and appeal to other sources of information. Among these, the use of the internet stands out both among sick people (65%) and by parents (76%): 1 participant in 4 frequently searches for information about nutrition on the web and 38% does research online from time to time . The investigation then reveals that, despite the consultation of medical specialists, the diets that are carried out are the sum of the patient's experience and a long process of trial and error.

Article Sources: Crohnviviamo - Stories of young people that Crohn's disease can't stop EngageMinds HUB - Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Friends of the Country and Veronesi Foundation 

  • crohn's disease
  • health and children
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