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Medical Diets and IBD

Physicians May Prescribe These Special Diets During a Flare-up or After Surgery

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Updated May 31, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

For people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diet is a major concern. At some point during treatment, most patients get sent home from the doctor's office or hospital with a special diet.

Here are four of the specific diets often prescribed to IBD patients. Always consult a physician before starting or stopping any diet.

1. Clear Liquid Diet

The clear liquid diet may be prescribed after abdominal surgery. Often, the first "meal" a patient is allowed after abdominal surgery contains items found on the clear liquid diet. This is a way of easing the gastrointestinal system into processing food again after the fasting that takes place before and after surgery.

When a patient does well on clear liquids, she may be switched to other diets, such as the full liquid diet, or even a soft food or bland food diet.

2. Full Liquid Diet

A full liquid diet may be prescribed after a patient has graduated from the clear liquid diet as the next small step on the way to solid foods.

A key difference between the clear liquid diet and the full liquid diet is the addition of liquids that contain milk products. For those who are lactose intolerant, this can be especially tricky, as foods containing cow's milk will need to be substituted with non-milk alternatives (such as soy).

3. Lactose-Free Diet

A lactose-free diet could be recommended at any time for those who have, or who are suspected of having, lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance causes symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain, which can be difficult to distinguish from the symptoms of IBD. People who follow a lactose-free diet must also be careful to ensure that they are receiving enough dietary calcium from other sources.

4. Restricted Fiber Diet

A restricted fiber diet may be recommended in a variety of circumstances, such as during a flare-up or as the last step before resuming an unrestricted diet after surgery. This diet consists of a variety of foods, but emphasizes restriction of foods that contain a high amount of fiber, such as some vegetables and grains.

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