The feasibility, usability, and clinical utility of traditional paper food and symptom journals for patients with irritable bowel syndrome

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Abstract

Background:

Paper food and gastrointestinal (GI) symptom journals are used to help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients determine potential trigger foods. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility, usability, and clinical utility of such journals as a data collection tool. A secondary aim was to explore a method for analyzing journal data to describe patterns of diet and symptoms.

Methods:

Participants (N=17) were asked to log three sets of 3-day food and symptom journals over a 15-day period. Feasibility was evaluated by journal completion rates, symptom logging compliance, and logging fatigability. The feasibility, usability, and clinical utility of journaling were also assessed by a customized evaluation and exit interview. For each journal, regression analyses were conducted to examine relationships between key meal nutrients and subsequent symptoms.

Key Results:

Most participants were young (mean age 35±12) Caucasian (N=13) women (N=14). Journal completion rates were 100% for all participants with no logging fatigability. Over half perceived paper journaling of food and symptoms as feasible, usable, and clinically useful. Thirteen participants demonstrated a strong association with at least one symptom and meal nutrient. Patterns of associations differed among participants.

Conclusions and Inferences:

Paper journaling of food and GI symptoms for 9 days over a 15-day period appeared to be a feasible and usable data collection tool for IBS patients. Over half perceived journaling as at least somewhat clinically useful. Findings from this study support the anecdote that food trigger(s) and associated symptom(s) vary for each individual.

The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility, usability, and clinical utility of paper food and gastrointestinal symptom journals as data collection tools for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Paper journaling of food and symptoms appears to be a feasible and usable data collection tool for IBS patients. Over half perceive journaling as at least somewhat clinically useful.

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