Use of Gluten-Free Diet with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

As noted in a previous blog (The Search for a Dietary Culprit in IBD | gutsandgrowth), alternative diets have been explored both for symptom improvement and in efforts to improve inflammation in individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).  A new study from North Carolina indicates that nearly 20% of patients have tried a gluten-free diet (GFD) to help control clinical symptoms in IBD (Inflamm Bowel Dis 2014; 20: 1194-97).

While adoption of a GFD clearly is effective for celiac disease, it has become popular, along with a low FODMAPs diet, as an alternative treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)/and “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”  Since IBS is a common comorbidity with IBD (see recent blog: New Biomarker for Crohn’s Disease (Plus Two ), it is not surprising that a GFD would be used by some with IBD.  In this study, the authors performed a cross-sectional study using a GFD questionnaire in 1647 IBD patients though a CCFA longitudinal internet-based cohort.


  • 19.1% had previously tried a GFD and 8.2% reported current use of GFD.
  • 65.6% described improvement while on a GFD.  Improved symptoms included fatigue, nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
  • 0.6% of patients reported a concurrent diagnosis of celiac disease (which is similar to overall celiac prevalence in U.S.)

Given the structure of this study, which is mainly an internet survey, there are many limitations in its interpretation.  Certainly, this study does not prove that a GFD is effective for IBD.  However, it is clear that a GFD is used frequently and may improve IBD/IBS symptoms.

Take-home message: Particularly in patients who have ongoing symptoms despite  mucosal healing, pursuing either a low FODMAPs diet or a GFD may be helpful.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects), implementation of diets and specific medical management interventions should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Application of the information in a particular situation remains the professional responsibility of the practitioner.

2 thoughts on “Use of Gluten-Free Diet with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

  1. Pingback: Nutrition Symposium Georgia AAP (Part 1) | gutsandgrowth

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