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Crohn’s Disease Diet: Best Practices

Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel syndrome are difficult to live with. The exact causes of Crohn’s are not well understood, and diagnosis can be difficult. One thing that is for certain is that the disease is best managed by a crohn’s disease diet. The foods you eat will have a direct effect on flare ups of your symptoms. For this reason, there are a lot of things to consider about a Crohn’s disease diet.

crohn's disease diet sign

Foods to Avoid

There are some foods that you should avoid entirely when you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. These foods are well known to cause irritation to the intestines and bowel. While you may be able to eat some of these foods in moderation, it is a good idea to avoid them whenever possible to avoid symptom flares.

The foods you should avoid include:

  • Fats such as butter, oils, salad dressings, and mayo
  • Sodas, sparkling water, and other carbonated drinks
  • Sources of caffeine such as soda, coffee, tea, or chocolate
  • Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products
  • Foods fried in oils and fats
  • High fiber foods such as wheat and some raw vegetables, particularly the broccoli, cauliflower, and the cabbage family
  • Beans, lentils, and other foods that cause gas
  • Peanut butter, nuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Most raw fruits
  • Beef, venison, pork, or other red meats
  • Spicy foods
crohn's disease diet sign nuts

Every individual is different. It is possible that not all of these foods will cause a flare in symptoms. However, these are the foods that are most likely to cause symptoms to worsen. If you are ever in doubt how something will make you feel it is best to avoid it entirely. Other foods you may be able to handle in small quantities.

Recommended Crohn’s Disease Diet

Now that we’ve covered the don’ts, let’s discuss what you should eat. Most people who have Crohn’s disease have intestinal problems that keep you from absorbing the nutrients in your food. This can quickly cause malnutrition and related health problems, including rapid weight loss.

If you are at high risk for this, or begin showing signs of weight loss, your doctor may tell you to go on a high calorie, low fat, high protein diet. This type of diet will cause you to eat quite a bit of food each day. Taking in additional calories and protein will ensure that more of the nutrients you need are absorbed.

crohn's disease diet sign steak

Doctors recommend that you eat several times per day if you are following such a Crohn’s disease diet. You may need to eat small meals if you don’t have much of an appetite, but you should be eating at least six times per day.

Finding and Altering Recipes

Following a Crohn’s disease diet can be rather difficult. You can find many recipes online for such a diet, but you may not be able to find some of your favorite foods. When you can’t find a recipe that is specifically designed for Crohn’s patients, you can alter recipes to suit your diet.

For example, while raw fruits and vegetables will likely cause a symptom flare, cooking them excessively may be acceptable to your digestive system. You lose nutrients the longer you cook fruits and vegetables, but eating overcooked vegetables is better than not eating them at all. Adjust cook times on casseroles and other vegetable dishes to overcook the veggies for easier digestion.

Another thing you will want to do is limit the spices in your food. This does not mean that your food has to be bland, however. There are a great many spices that do not cause flare ups with Crohn’s disease. Mostly you want to avoid spicy hot seasonings. Other seasonings could be perfectly acceptable. If you aren’t sure what seasonings might cause a flare up, keep track of the seasonings you use and how you feel after the meal so that you can decide whether to use that seasoning again in the future.

crohn's disease diet sign herbs

Some of the seasonings you will want to avoid are black, cayenne and red pepper, cumin, chili powder, onion, and garlic. A good investment is seasoning substitutes such as Mrs. Dash. These seasoning substitutes come in a variety of flavor combinations, and you can easily get some that do not contain spices that would flare up your Crohn’s disease. Just make sure to carefully inspect the ingredients list before using. Most recipes you can add up the measurements for the seasonings listed and substitute that amount of seasoning substitute.

Listening and Reacting to Your Body

It is important to remember that everyone’s reaction to Crohn’s is different. You may or may not have problems with malnutrition and weight loss. You may or may not have symptom flares from certain foods and spices. It is very important that you listen to your body, track your eating habits, and take action when you notice patterns.

One thing that can be really helpful in this is to keep a wellness diary. A wellness diary doesn’t just track the foods you eat. It also tracks items such as weight, how much water you drink during the day, exercise, pain, bowel habits, and any other information you might find helpful. There are several apps available for tracking this information, or you can get a wellness journal from Amazon.

Periodically go back through your wellness diary so that you can identify patterns. You will quickly begin to recognize which foods flare up your symptoms or cause problems with your bowels. You can then avoid those foods. It will also help you identify symptoms of malnutrition and weight loss quickly so that you can meet with your doctor or a nutritionist.

Supplements

Often diet alone is not enough for a person with Crohn’s disease to remain otherwise healthy. Between your body not absorbing nutrients and your inability to eat raw fruits and vegetables, there are a lot of nutrients you need that you won’t be getting. Supplements help give your body what it needs without the need to get them into your diet, which can be difficult. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.

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