Neither food intake, nor the clinical characteristics of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients with severe food avoidance and restriction have been investigated. The aim of our study was to identify those patients and to characterize their symptoms, quality of life, and nutrient intake.
IBS patients who completed the IBS quality of life (IBSQOL) questionnaire at our secondary/tertiary centre were included. The three questions constituting the food domain were used to identify patients with reported severe food avoidance and restriction. The patients also completed validated questionnaires to assess stool form (BSF), GI symptom severity (z-score of IBS-SSS and GSRS-IBS), psychological distress (HADS), GI-specific anxiety (VSI), and somatic symptom severity (z-score of SCL-90-R and PHQ-15). A 4-day food diary was used to analyse food intake in 246 patients.
We included 955 IBS patients (75% females; mean age 38.3 ± 13.3 years). In total, 13.2% of the patients reported severe food avoidance and restriction, and in these patients all aspects of quality of life were lower (p<0.01) and psychological, GI, and somatic symptoms were more severe (p<0.05). Reported severe food avoidance and restriction was associated with lower total energy intake (p=0.002), lower intake of protein (p=0.001) and carbohydrates (p=0.005). In a logistic regression analysis, loose stools were found to be independently associated with reported severe food avoidance and restriction (R=0.062).
IBS patients with severe food avoidance and restriction constitute a subgroup with more severe symptoms overall, reduced quality of life and reduced intake of nutrients. This needs to be acknowledged in the clinical management of these patients.

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