The effect of increasing physical activity and/or omega-3 supplementation on fatigue in inflammatory bowel disease

Angela S. McNelly, Indira Nathan, Marilina Monti, George K. Grimble, Christine Norton, Frances Bredin, Wladyslawa J. Czuber-Dochan, Stuart Berliner, Martin A. Gay, Marcia Darvell, Helen Terry, Alastair Forbes

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Objective: Fatigue is frequently reported by patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irrespective of disease activity; however, evidence regarding fatigue management is limited. This study tested the effect of individualised advice to increase physical activity and/or omega-3 fatty acids supplementation, on IBD-related fatigue.

Methods: A pilot study in patients with inactive IBD, utilising a randomised controlled 2x2 factorial design (four groups) compared baseline and post-intervention fatigque scores. Study interventions: individualised exercise advice (15 minute consultation) and/or supplementation (omega-3 fatty acids, 2970mg/day) for 12 weeks. Control interventions: general health discussion and/or placebo supplement. All patients received follow-up support. Primary outcome was fatigue measured by Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue (FACIT-F) scale score; secondary outcomes included change in Inflammatory Bowel Disease-Fatigue (IBD-F) scale score.

Results: From n=656 screened patients, n=74 who met the selection criteria were randomised, n=60 commenced, and n=52 completed the study. Fatigue as tThe primary outcome fatigque, measured with FACIT-F, showed slight worsening in the omega-3 supplementation group (95%CI:-8.6-(-0.7);p=0.02), and no change in the exercise advice group (p=0.38). Reduced fatigue, measured by IBD-F score, was identified in the exercise group (95%CI:-3.8-(-0.2);p=0.03). One treatment-related adverse event (musculoskeletal pain) was reported with exercise.

Conclusions: Advice to increase physical activity and omega-3 supplementation, singly or in combination, were shown to be safe and generally well-tolerated. There was no evidence of exercise-related adverse effects on gut-related symptoms, and some evidence of improvement in fatigue. The slight worsening of fatigue with omega-3 supplementation is unexplained. Regular moderate to -vigorous exercise may be a self-management option in IBD-related fatigue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-50
Number of pages22
JournalGastrointestinal Nursing
Issue number8
Early online date20 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Fatigue
  • Nutrition
  • Omega-3 supplementation
  • Physical Activity
  • IBD

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