Crohn’s Disease Diet: What You Eat Matters!

If you are suffering from Crohn’s disease, you know that certain foods trigger your intestinal symptoms.

Other foods make you feel better.

During a flare, certain foods can severely worsen the symptoms.

The trick with the diet is to find out which foods trigger your symptoms, and which do not [1]https://www.centerwatch.com/clinical-trials/listings/condition/51/crohns-disease/.

As a general rule of thumb, there are foods that are better to ignore, and some that might be a healthy and nutritious way to get your meals.

What is Crohn’s disease?

The Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease.

Both Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis involve an immune reaction against the intestinal tract [2]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161228171130.htm.

Crohn’s affects just the small intestines but results in diarrhea and undernourishment.

If the large intestine is also inflamed, diarrhea becomes even more severe.

Combine diarrhea and malnutrition, and you have a recipe for health problems.

People with Crohn’s can also suffer from anemia and have low levels of vitamin B12.

What is the goal with the diet?

There are several types of Crohn’s diet plans on the internet [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5372922/.

The fact of the matter is that no diet is scientifically proven.

The goal, however, is to consume foods that are easy on your digestive tract.

It is best to work with a nutritionist and find a way to eliminate the foods triggering your symptoms.

An important rule of thumb is to follow a high-calorie and high-protein diet.

The goal of the diet is to replenish the nutrients you need with foods that are easy on your stomach and eliminate foods that trigger the symptoms [4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315368/.

With that in mind, there are few simple rules:

  • Limit dairy products
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Consume low-fat foods
  • Experiment with fiber
  • Avoid gassy foods

What about exercise?

Exercise is an essential part of living a healthy life.

And for people with Crohn’s disease, staying active is just as important as the diet plan.

Exercise helps you boost the overall health, control weight, relieve stress, improve your mood, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve your immune system.

An added benefit is that exercising on a daily basis will reduce the risk of extra-intestinal symptoms.

During a flare, consult with a physician whether you should exercise or not.

Also, consult with your doctor which exercises work for you.

Foods to Avoid

Foods to Eat ( Infographic )

The goal with the diet is to reduce consumption of foods that might trigger your inflammation [5]https://ibdnewstoday.com/2017/01/03/special-diet-sends-children-with-crohns-and-ulcerative-colitis-into-remission-in-study/.

While some of the following foods are healthy in general, they will make matters worse if you suffer from Crohn’s.

Nuts

Yes, nuts are very nutritious.

They are rich in healthy ingredients, mainly omega-3 fatty acids.

However, when eaten raw, people with Crohn’s disease will not benefit and absorb the healthy fats and protein.

The problem with nuts is they are hard to digest foods.

As such, they irritate the lining of the gut and worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease [6]http://livehealthy.chron.com/intestinal-problems-caused-eating-nuts-4974.html.

Gas-producing foods

Fun fact: most of the gas-producing foods are very healthy foods.

The list includes broccoli, legumes, beans, lentils, onions, and cabbage.

All of these are very healthy, rich in vitamins, fiber, and minerals.

Broccoli, for example, is considered one of the superfoods.

But because they produce gas, these foods are not recommended for someone suffering from Crohn’s disease.

Fruit with skin

One thing people with Crohn’s have to pay attention to is fruits.

Mainly, peeling of the skin.

An apple with skin will cause major digestive stress, and that spells bad things happening.

The same goes for vegetables like cucumbers.

Any fruit or vegetable with edible peel has to be consumed carefully.

First, you have to peel them, and only then you can eat them.

However, it is worth noting that people with Crohn’s disease should stick to cooked and canned fruits.

They cause much fewer problems.

Popcorn

Whole grains are another healthy food that is just not good for people with Crohn’s disease.

Whole grains can cause a serious flare-up in the stomach.

Popcorn is one of the hardest grains to digest, and the same goes for corn on the cob.

Fried food

Now, this is something that is not good for anyone.

Fried foods should generally be avoided.

For people with Crohn’s, they are even more dangerous.

Once you put them in the deep fat fryer, chicken, fish, and other healthy foods are just an absolute NO.

The greasiness of fried foods is just too much for patients with Crohn’s.

Cured meat

One of the biggest goals of the diet is to get enough protein.

In fact, people with the disease should consume at least 25% protein of their daily calorie intake.

The problem is, not all protein is good protein.

Fatty and cured meats like bacon are just way too problematic for consumption.

Cured meat offers little nutritional benefit, and the high-fat content can activate diarrhea and similar digestive problems.

For your protein consumption, opt for lean meat.

Tomatoes

There is still no clear answer why people with Crohn’s suffer from eating tomatoes.

Some believe it is the skin, others believe it is the acidity.

But whatever it is, patients have said tomatoes worsen their symptoms.

And that includes both raw tomatoes in a salad or a tomato sauce in spaghetti.

Coffee and carbonated drinks

Anything with caffeine is bad for people with Crohn’s, and that includes coffee, but also carbonated drink and chocolate.

Alcohol

Alcohol is always a problem for people with digestive problems.

Also for people with inflammatory bowel disease.

Alcohol should be consumed in moderation.

Otherwise, it will cause a flare.

Dairy

In some cases, Crohn’s disease can cause lactose intolerance while damaging the digestive tract [7]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11743245.

This makes it impossible to digest the sugar found in milk and dairy products.

If dairy products cause bloating or gas, you should avoid them.

Stick to non-dairy products like almond milk.

And go for harder and aged cheeses like Parmesan and cheddar.

What to Eat?

Now that we talked about what you should avoid during the diet, let’s talk about what you should eat [8]http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/assets/pdfs/diet-nutrition-2013-1.pdf.

Now, it is worth noting that certain foods work only for certain people.

The diet plan is an individual plan.

It is best to work with a nutritionist for a diet that will be tailor-made for you.

To get there, you first have to try an elimination diet, and see which foods work, and which do not for you [9]https://nutritionfacts.org/2012/09/13/dietary-treatment-for-crohns-disease/.

As a general rule of thumb, however, there are certain foods in the diet for Crohn’s disease that will help you get all your nutrients, and not worsen the symptoms in the process.

Almond milk

As mentioned before, many people with Crohn’s are also lactose intolerant [10]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1411415/.

The best alternative to dairy is almond milk, made from ground-up almonds.

Sometimes, the almond milk can be fortified with calcium and contain just as many as regular milk.

Eggs

Any way you prepare them, eggs are one of the best cheap sources of easy to digest protein.

Make sure to store eggs in your fridge, and you will have a quick meal at any time.

Some ideas are potatoes and egg noodles, or eggs and toast.

Oatmeal

As we know by now, the goal with the Crohn’s disease diet is to consume foods that are easy to digest.

Oatmeal is a great option, being a comfort food you can cook in a number of ways.

Even when you are flaring, oatmeal is great.

Oatmeal has soluble fiber, one that passes slowly through the digestive tract.

Soft-cooked oatmeal is the best breakfast option.

Salmon

We mentioned previously that 25% of the food you eat during the diet period should come from protein.

Well, a lean protein found in salmon is great.

Fish is always a beneficial option, not just because of the protein.

Salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Other easily digestible seafood options include white fish like tilapia and shrimps.

Avoid the deep fat fryer for fish. Instead, use boiling, steaming, and grilling techniques.

Vegetable soups

People with Crohn’s are afraid to consume vegetables.

Most vegetables either have skin or cause gas and bloating.

But once you cook them, they are much better.

Pureed veggies like pumpkin, carrots, parsnips, and butternut squash, all of which can be made into vegetable soup are good even during a flare.

Poultry

Chicken and turkey meat are rich in protein and lean enough to protect your digestive tract.

Being easy to digest is key, and chicken can be your daily protein meal.

Papaya

You might think you need to avoid fruits completely.

But during a flare, tropical fruits like papaya are great and easy to digest.

Papaya is a very nutritious option, containing enzymes that help your body digest proteins.

Avocado

Rich in healthy fats and B vitamins make the avocado a must for the diet plan.

Avocado is one of the few fruits with soluble fiber, which is easy to digest.

Roasted red peppers

One of the tastiest meals on the diet plan is definitely roasted red peppers.

Make sure to remove the skin, and then you can consume these delicious and safe peppers.

You can add them to a salad, a sandwich, or just use them as a soup garnish.

Rice

Anyone who suffers from stomach woes knows that white rice is great.

White rice might not be super nutritious, but it is easy on the gut, and that is all that matters for people with Crohn’s.

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