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S Afr Med J. 1995 Nov;85(11):1176-9.

The value of an elimination diet in the management of patients with ulcerative colitis.

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Department of Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital.


Debate exists about the role of diet in both the aetiology and the management of ulcerative colitis. To examine the latter, a group of patients with documented ulcerative colitis was studied at the Groote Schuur Hospital Gastro-intestinal Clinic. A total of 18 subjects, 9 female and 9 male, were randomised into active or control groups and followed up weekly for 6 weeks. Subjects in the control group were asked to document but not alter their intake of food and drink. Those in the experimental group had their diets systematically manipulated to exclude foods that appeared to provoke symptoms. The symptoms, sigmoidoscopy and biopsy findings of all subjects were compared before and after. 'Remission' was defined as the passage of normal stools with absence of rectal bleeding. 'Improvement' was defined as a decrease in the number of diarrhoeal stools and/or a diminution of rectal bleeding. At the end of the trial the diet group displayed significantly fewer symptoms than did the controls (P = 0.009; Fisher's exact test). Sigmoidoscopic findings improved in 8 subjects in the diet group compared with 2 of the controls. Histological findings improved in 3 of the diet group as well as in 3 of the controls. There were no foods that provoked symptoms in all patients, though spiced and curried foods and fruits, especially grapes, melon and the citruses, commonly caused diarrhoea. In only 2 patients were symptoms reproduced consistently on reintroduction of a particular food, pork in 1 case and yellow cheese in another.

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