Commentary: When applying dietary therapies for gastrointestinal conditions, family values, culture, and social challenges matter

Marina Iacovou, James D. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalComment / DebateOtherpeer-review


Some gastrointestinal conditions now have diet as a cornerstone to therapy. Three examples include the low-fermentable, oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyol diet for irritable bowel syndrome, a gluten-free diet for celiac disease, and a hypoallergenic diet for eosinophilic esophagitis. All have been shown to be effective in Western or highly industrialized countries. However, these gastrointestinal conditions occur worldwide. Less is known regarding the effectiveness of dietary therapies in cultures and regions of dense religious and traditional practices where food is a central focus. This includes South Asia, the Mediterranean region, Africa, the Middle East, South America, and within Indigenous communities. Hence, there is a need to reproduce dietary intervention studies within cultures of dense traditional dietary practices to understand the applicability and acceptability of dietary therapy to establish generalizability. Furthermore, there is a need for nutrition experts to have a deep understanding of various cultural cuisines, practices, values, and customs. To achieve this, increasing the diversity of students in the sciences and having a diverse workforce of nutrition experts and health professionals that reflects the patient population will allow for more personalized care. In addition, there are social challenges, including a lack of medical insurance coverage, the cost of dietary interventions, and inconsistent nutrition messaging. Although there are many cultural considerations and social challenges to implementing effective dietary interventions around the world, these barriers are addressable through research methodologies that address culture and society challenges, and enhanced training of dietitians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1490-1494
Number of pages5
JournalNutrition Reviews
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • acceptability
  • applicability
  • culture
  • dietary therapies
  • gastrointestinal

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