Revealing Connection between Blood Sugar Levels and Digestive Symptoms in IBD Patients

Principal Investigator: Tiffany Taft, PsyD, MIS, Research Associate Professor, Director of Psychogastroenterology Research, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Department of Medical Social Sciences Emerging research shows that changes in the body’s blood sugar or “glycemic variability” may worsen inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms such as nausea, bloating, and pain. Dr. Taft is first determining if glycemic variability is linked to symptom severity in patients with IBD and, secondly, identifying how the foods IBD patients eat affect their glycemic variability. Study participants will wear a continuous glucose monitor, like those worn by patients with diabetes, for 14 days to assess changes to their blood sugar levels. During this time period, participants will write down their daily IBD symptoms and complete a journal of what they ate and drank to detail their diets. The diet information from the food journals will be entered into a nutrition analysis software program to identify what, if any, aspects of the person’s diet affect their blood sugar, and how changes in blood sugar might affect their IBD symptoms. Understanding glycemic variably offers a novel approach to the diet puzzle for better managing IBD, improving patient symptoms and quality of...

Fighting Fatigue: A Widespread Symptom in IBD Patients

Principal Investigator: Tiffany Taft, PsyD, MIS, Research Associate Professor, Director of Psychogastroenterology Research, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Department of Medical Social Sciences Fatigue remains a major issue in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Many patients find it just as debilitating as abdominal pain or bowel control. Lacking reliable therapeutic options, clinicians grapple with how to adequately manage it. Dr. Taft believes heart rate variability (HRV)—the change in time intervals between each heartbeat—may play a role. The Taft team is studying the relationship between normal HRV changes and fatigue in patients with IBD, while considering the influence of other factors such as inflammation, mood, and sleep. The investigators will measure markers of inflammation, as well as common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in IBD patients via a phlebotomist blood draw at the start of the study. Participants will wear Fitbit devices to monitor their HRV continuously over two weeks. If a relationship exists between low HRV and fatigue, improving HRV via behavioral techniques, such as slow-breathing and other relaxation methods, has the potential to greatly improve outcomes and quality of life for IBD patients living with chronic fatigue as part of their...

Measuring which aspects of living with IBD, including its treatments, may contribute to a patient developing post-traumatic stress (PTS), a chronic psychological reaction to a traumatic event characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance

Principal Investigator: Tiffany Taft, PsyD Living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is both physically and psychologically challenging and has the potential to negatively impact patient lives. As many as one-third of individuals with IBD demonstrate significant post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms, according to the first study of IBD-related PTS in the United States conducted by Dr. Taft and her team. Negative hospital experiences may play a substantial role. Further advancing this research, Dr. Taft aims to identify targets for early psychosocial counseling to better intervene and prevent the potential impact of undiagnosed PTS on patient outcomes. The novel study will include the use of online patient surveys to better understand PTS prevalence in IBD and to assess differences in illnesses and demographics traits between IBD patients with and without PTS. The next step will involve in-depth interview s with patients recruited from Northwestern’s and Rush University’s gastroenterology clinics. A clinical psychologist who specializes in working with adult IBD patients will conduct these interviews to gather information not easily collected via standardized tests to better evaluate PTS causes and guide...