Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involving an immune attack of the intestinal tract. For patients with Crohn’s disease, certain foods can trigger symptoms and lead to disease flares. Formulating a specific dietary plan may help patients to manage their disease and reduce symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
When formulating a diet plan for Crohn’s disease, here are some tips that you should keep in mind:
- Know every patient is different
Crohn’s disease can be highly individualized. Different patients may have disease in different parts of their intestinal tracts, may exhibit different symptoms, and may respond differently to certain foods and beverages in their diets. It is important to listen to your body and to identify what specific dietary products trigger your Crohn’s symptoms. This may require a little trial and error and a lot of patience, but identifying which foods you can and can’t eat is essential to helping to manage Crohn’s symptoms.
- Keep a food diary
If you’re having a hard time identifying dietary triggers for your Crohn’s disease, try keeping a diary of everything you eat and drink. This can help you to identify these problem foods and eliminate them from your diet (or at least minimize their consumption). Keeping a food diary can also be a great tool for your doctor and/or dietician, and help ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients on a daily basis.
- Focus on getting the proper nutrients
While proper nutrition is important for everyone’s health, it can be especially important if you’re living with Crohn’s disease. Because of the inflammation, diarrhea, and appetite suppression seen in Crohn’s disease, you could be at an increased risk of poor nutrient absorption and nutrient deficiencies.
Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods with a healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, in addition to essential vitamins and minerals. You may need nutrition supplements or meal replacement shakes to ensure you’re receiving the nutrients essential for daily life.
- Talk to a doctor and/or dietician
A doctor and/or dietician can be a great tool when formulating a Crohn’s diet plan. These professionals are experts in knowing exactly what nutrients patients need, and can help to customize a diet plan that allows for appropriate nutrition while still avoiding trigger foods. They may also be able to help you see patterns in your food diary and identify trigger foods, nutrient deficiencies, or other dietary issues that you hadn’t identified. Working with a doctor and/or dietician will ensure you are making dietary changes that help to manage your Crohn’s disease in a safe and healthy way.
- Other dietary suggestions worth trying
While every patient is different, there are some common tips that can be helpful when creating a diet plan for your Crohn’s disease. If you are just beginning to form your Crohn’s diet plan, these suggestions may be a good place to start.
- Avoid fatty, greasy, and fried foods.
- Limit alcoholic beverages.
- Try avoiding dairy products, especially if you’re lactose intolerant.
- Foods high in fiber or gas-producing foods (whole grains, bran, lentils, beans, certain raw fruits and vegetables, etc.) may make symptoms worse, especially diarrhea.
- Try eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than three large meals a day.
- Drink plenty of water, but drink small amounts throughout the day.
- Limit coffee, tea, and soda beverages as caffeine can worsen symptoms.
- Crohn’s & Colitis. Crohn’s Disease Nutrition & Exercise. https://www.crohnsandcolitis.com/living-with-crohns-uc/crohns/diet-and-exercise. 2016. Accessed: December 2017.
- Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Living with Crohn’s & Colitis. http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/living-with-crohns-colitis/. 2017. Accessed: December 2017.
- Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Diet and IBD. http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/resources/diet-and-ibd.html. 2017. Accessed: December 2017.
Kristin O’Donovan is currently finishing her Doctor of Pharmacy Degree with a Business Minor at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN. She is a co-founder of BU Well, an open-access multimedia journal that focuses on topics of health, wellness, and life sciences. With past experience working in retail pharmacy, Kristin is passionate about helping others to achieve the best possible health outcomes and to improve their overall wellness