What is the purpose of a liquid diet when dealing with Inflammatory Bowel Disease? I have gotten this question quite frequently in dealing with the nutritional aspects of this disease. In the traditional usage a liquid diet is prescribed to provide time for the bowels to rest. The bowels may need this type of rest after surgery or a particularly bad flare up.
One of the common liquid diets used in medical nutrition therapy is the Clear Liquid Diet. This diet consists of all non-caffeinated clear liquids. It also can include Jello, popsicles, and broth. It is meant to be used for very short periods of time because it does not meet the nutritional needs of adults or children.
The next step up from the Clear Liquid Diet is called the Full Liquid. This diet includes everything listed above and adds juices, ice cream, milk, pudding, cooked refined cereal and strained soups. Some people also add protein shakes to this diet but this is not part of the traditional definition of Full Liquid diet.
Some of the research does indicate that patients can benefit from the use of liquid diets during recovery periods. However, the long term use of such diets is not recommended. These diets do not provide enough of the essential nutrients the body needs to function properly. In the end it could end up weakening the body’s defenses to use this type of diet in a way other than what it was intended for. This is especially true for people with IBD who may have absorption issues adding to the problem.
If you are on a liquid diet that was prescribed by your physician you probably received instructions on how long to remain on the diet and when to transition to more normal foods. If you have problems with the diet or transition discuss them with your doctor or dietitian.
Frequently placing yourself on a liquid diet may also indicate to your physician that your IBD is not under control. They may want to take a closer look at your overall treatment plan. Try using our journals to keep close track of your symptoms and nutritional habits and bring them to your doctor appointments.
Dietary changes can seem so benign but can make a huge difference in your overall health. A healthy diet can dramatically improve the quality of life for many patients I have spoken with. Should you choose to place yourself on any form of liquid diet be sure your physician has been informed. They may need to watch you more closely for nutritional deficiencies.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.