In the United States, approximately 1.3 percent of adults (that’s about three million people) suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (or IBD for short). Many of these people struggle with a specific type of IBD known as Crohn’s disease.
Are you part of this group? Do you suspect that you might be? If so, there are lots of lifestyle changes you can make, including adjusting your diet, to manage your symptoms.
Read on to learn more about what an effective Crohn’s disease diet might look like.
What Is Crohn’s Disease?
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, you might be wondering what to expect or what’s going on internally.
Crohn’s disease, as mentioned above, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease and is characterized by inflammation in the digestive tract. This inflammation results in a variety of symptoms, including the following:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Weight loss
When left untreated, the inflammation that Crohn’s disease causes can spread deep into the bowel tissue. As this happens, symptoms will likely become more severe.
Crohn’s Disease Diet Tips
When dealing with this condition, you can certainly rely on Crohn’s disease medication to help you manage your symptoms and feel well. For some people, though, medication is ineffective, or they simply prefer a more holistic approach.
If you fall into either of these camps, changing your diet could have positive effects on your symptoms and overall health. Here are some specific foods that you might want to include in your meals on a regular basis:
You’ve likely been told throughout your life all of the health benefits associated with whole grains. If you struggle with Crohn’s disease, though, fiber-loaded whole-grain foods might cause you to feel worse instead of healthier.
As someone with Crohn’s disease, high-fiber foods can be very hard on your digestive system. They can exacerbate inflammation and, in turn, lead to flare-ups.
Instead of eating lots of high-fiber grains, try incorporating more refined, low-fiber options into your diet. This might include things like rice, pasta, or low-fiber cereals. Consider buying products that are fortified with vitamins and minerals to fill in any gaps in your diet.
Low-fiber fruits are great for people with Crohn’s disease, too. They’ll help you ensure you’re getting plenty of vitamins and minerals in your diet, and they taste delicious. Bananas, melons, and peaches are all examples of low-fiber fruits that you might want to enjoy fresh or frozen and blending into a smoothie.
Raw vegetables can be hard on your digestive system when you have Crohn’s disease. That doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the green stuff, though.
Just make sure you’re cooking your vegetables well before you enjoy them, as cooking tends to make them easier to digest. Roast them in the oven or sautee them on the stove to add some flavor and extra vitamins and minerals to your meals.
Many people with Crohn’s disease find that high-fat meat products, especially red meat, can make their symptoms worse. To ensure you’re still getting plenty of protein in your diet, make sure you incorporate lean cuts of meat into your meals on a regular basis. Chicken breast, lean ground beef, and ground or roasted turkey are all good options.
Fatty meat might not be good for your digestion, but fatty fish is. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and reduce your risk of other health conditions, including heart disease. Try adding fatty fish to your meals at least a couple of times per week.
Foods to Avoid
At the same time that you ought to add certain healthy foods into your diet, there are also some foods that you might want to remove to manage your Crohn’s disease symptoms. The following foods and drinks may trigger flare-ups and cause you to feel worse:
For many people with Crohn’s disease, alcohol is a trigger for flare-ups. You might be okay having the occasional drink, but if you’re a regular drinker, consider cutting back or removing alcohol for a month or so to see how you feel.
You’ll likely find that your symptoms improve. This is because alcohol can irritate the lining of your digestive tract and can also make it harder for your body to utilize important nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Carbonated drinks like soda and sparkling water can be bad for folks with Crohn’s disease, too. The carbonation can irritate and inflame the digestive tract.
Coffee and Tea
It’s a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people, but the truth is that coffee and tea are often trigger-beverages for Crohn’s flare-ups. This is especially true of caffeinated coffee and tea. The caffeine can lead to diarrhea, which is something people with Crohn’s already have to deal with on a regular basis.
Consider removing these drinks for a while, then add them back in (in small amounts) to see how you feel. You might also find that you’re okay with low-caffeine or decaffeinated options.
Spicy foods are notorious for being less-than-ideal for people dealing with digestive issues, including Crohn’s disease. Eating spicy foods can exaggerate inflammation in the bowels and make your symptoms worse.
Sometimes, people with Crohn’s disease also experience lactose-intolerance. If this is the case for you, consuming dairy products (unless they’re specifically labeled as lactose-free) can lead to inflammation and flare-ups.
Do your best to avoid dairy if you know that you’re lactose-intolerant and are dealing with Crohn’s disease. If you’re not sure, you can eliminate dairy for about a month and then add it back to your diet to see how it affects you and your symptoms.
Start Seeking Crohn’s Disease Treatment Today
If you’re struggling with symptoms of Crohn’s disease, making some improvements to your diet could be very effective. Keep the information from above on a proper Crohn’s disease diet in mind as you move forward so you can start seeing results and feeling your best.
Do you want to learn more about eating a healthy diet? Check out the Health section of our site today for some additional tips and tricks.