Seeking Control Through the Determination of Diet: A Qualitative Investigation of Women With Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Abstract

Purpose:

The overall objective of this investigation was to study the lived experience, in relation to diet, of women who have been diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and/or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This study specifically explored pre-illness and postdiagnosis dietary patterns of participants with an emphasis on the changes, if any, that participants had made to their diet.

Methods:

This study took place on a university campus in southwestern Ontario, Canada. Eight women between the ages of 18 and 23 years were recruited. Participants completed a consent form, background questionnaire, and a 14-day food diary. Participant also engaged in one-on-one semistructured interviews that consisted of 8 open-ended questions aimed at gaining a thorough understanding of the lived experience of these women, with respect to their dietary practices.

Results:

The 3 major themes identified included: control; family and friend support; and adverse behaviors. The salient theme of control included the subthemes timing and awareness of surroundings, giving into temptations, and determination of diet. Determining one's diet, the subtheme that is addressed in this article, involved several key elements, including (1) the role of the physician(s), (2) experimentation, (3) seeking information, and (4) food modifications.

Conclusions:

Diet was the primary behavioral factor manipulated by participants to manage their conditions. The determination of potential trigger foods/beverages, however, entailed an often frustrating process of trial and error, in which few of the women received assistance from primary healthcare professionals. As a result, many of the women sought dietary information from alternate sources, some of which may not provide reliable information. Through experimentation and, for some, the documentation of food intake and symptom production, all participants identified food/beverage items they believed to cause symptom development. Although similar items were identified by many, all participants had individual triggers and sensitivities.

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