The Importance of Protein in IBD
Protein Energy Malnutrition is common in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This occurs when the person is not consuming enough protein or calories throughout the day. There are various reasons for why this occurs including poor intake, absorption problems, digestion problems or an anatomical issue in the GI tract such as a shortened bowel. (http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/166/7/913)
Protein is an important part of our diet. It is involved in the growth and repair of bodily tissues, the production of enzymes and hormones and helps to create antibodies in the immune response. When you have a chronic disease getting adequate protein to nourish your body becomes even more essential.
For patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease the protein requirements are increased to approximately 1.5 to 1.7g/kg of ideal body weight (or greater if the patient has a shortened bowel or absorption issues). Most American's exceed the daily requirements of protein but those with IBD may have a hard time finding sources that are palatable during flare ups of their disease.
It is of great importance that patients with IBD "plan" foods into their diet that are good sources of protein and that will be most palatable on the days where it is difficult to eat. Some good sources of complete protein include: eggs, lean meats, poultry, fish, soy and dairy products.
You can also find protein in plants like fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. These are called incomplete proteins. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. The essential amino acids can not be made by the body so they must be part of the dietary intake. When eating sources of incomplete proteins it is important to vary the intake to insure consumption of each of the essential amino acids.
If you know that it will be impossible to get enough protein from dietary intake during a flare up you should discuss the use of supplementation with your doctor. There are many products on the market that can provide additional protein and nutrients through liquid drinks. These may be used as an adjunct to a healthy eating plan when it isn't possible to consume the nutrients otherwise.
Patients who become deficient in protein can have muscular wasting, anemia, edema and children can have stunted growth. It can also cause poor appetite, muscular cramping and fatigue among other things. It is very important to find sources of protein that are palatable and discuss your overall nutritional status with your doctor.