Many IBD Patients, Providers Lack Nutrition Knowledge, Study Says

Many IBD Patients, Providers Lack Nutrition Knowledge, Study Says

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) has studied patients living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and found significant knowledge gaps about nutritional care.

Some studies show that up to 80% of all Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) patients may be malnourished due to chronic inflammation, disease symptoms and medication, among others.

The CCFA published a study in the September issue of IBD Journal that reports IBD patients might be at greater risk of being malnourished. This CCFA study showed that care providers and patients often do not talk about the importance of nutrition in managing their diseases.

In addition to focus groups of patients and providers conducted in New York, Chicago and Seattle, the study assessed 223 responses from healthcare providers of several specialties, including gastroenterology, nursing and nutrition, as well as 567 responses from patients.

The project team reported the following:

  • About 58.5% of patients responded that nutrition was “very important” to manage IBD, but only 36% of patients said they talked on a regular basis with any healthcare provider about nutrition.
  • Less than 50% of all providers considered they had enough adequate nutritional care resources to assist patients and guide discussions regarding their IBD-specific diets.
  • Merely 16% of nurses and nurse practitioners reported having a “very good” knowledge of nutrition for IBD patients, in comparison to 41% of gastroenterologists and 86% of registered dietitians.
  • Several health providers admitted they don’t check for malnutrition regularly and therefore may miss the best opportunity to make an early intervention in case of malnourishment in IBD.

“Malnutrition is common in IBD patients, yet little is known about best practices for nutritional assessment and management in IBD care,” Caroline Hwang, MD, gastroenterologist at the University of Southern California’s Digestive Health Center, and CCFA’s nutrition project leader, said in a press release. “To better understand the role nutrition plays in IBD management, we set out to evaluate knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding nutrition among IBD patients and care providers,” she said.

The study is titled “Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs Regarding the Role of Nutrition in IBD among Patients and Providers” and was led by Andrew Tinsley, MD, PennState Health’s Hershey Medical Center.

As a response to the study, CCFA is now launching a “Healthy Nourishment in IBD” program that will work within the framework of CCFA’s IBD Qorus, which was created as a quality-care initiative that seeks enhanced health outcomes for IBD patients.

The Healthy Nourishment program aims to develop a nutritional care pathway that will give healthcare providers a set of validated tools to identify and assess patients who are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment, and provide educational tools for physicians, dietitians and patients to prevent and treat malnourishment.

“The learnings from this study reinforce the importance of creating programs around nutrition to optimize the quality of life and outcomes of patients with IBD,” added Alandra Weaver, director of IBD Qorus, a collaboration between patients and their healthcare providers.

The Health Nourishment program aligns with the study authors’ recommendations, which included developing targeted educational initiatives and resources, integrating nutrition experts into the multidisciplinary IBD care teams, and improving access and affordability in qualified nutrition services.