More than a half million Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the lining of your digestive tract (most commonly the small or large intestine). Researchers aren’t sure what causes Crohn’s disease, but they believe it’s probably caused by a combination of genetics and an abnormal immune system response.
People with Crohn’s disease often find their symptoms are worse when they eat certain foods. Identifying these food “triggers” can play a central role in reducing flare-ups and associated symptoms of pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.
At Digestive Disease Specialists, our team works closely with Crohn’s disease patients at our offices in Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, helping them manage their flare-ups and avoid complications, such as bowel obstruction, ulcers, abscesses, and fistulas. Here’s what our team recommends to help you fine-tune your diet for fewer flare-ups.
Crohn’s disease and your diet
Because Crohn’s disease is associated with inflammation in the lining of your digestive tract, it’s not surprising that the foods you eat can have a direct effect on your symptoms. Limiting your food choices can be inconvenient, but because diet is something you can control, choosing your foods wisely can be a great way to manage your symptoms on your own.
One of the best ways to know which foods to avoid is to start a food diary, keeping a list of foods associated with symptom flares. To give you a head start, make a note of the following food categories, which can help you know which foods to eat and which foods to avoid.
Foods to avoid when you have Crohn’s disease
Here are some foods you should consider avoiding to keep symptoms at bay:
Foods with lots of sugar (natural and refined)
Certainly, refined sugars found in cakes, candies, and pastries can cause symptoms to flare. However, so can some natural sugars, such as lactose that’s found in milk and soft cheeses.
Many fats are notoriously difficult to digest. Limiting the amount of fat you eat — and opting for healthy fats, such as olive oil or oily fish — can help you enjoy the richness of fats without the potential symptoms. Avoid fried foods, too.
Spices and seasoning can give life to an otherwise dull dish, and plenty of regional cuisines depend heavily on spices for their distinctive flavors. You don’t need to avoid all spices, but you should limit or eliminate any spices that come from items that are considered “hot,” such as cinnamon and peppers.
Foods high in insoluble fiber
Most of us know that a diet high in fiber promotes healthy bowel function. But, if you have Crohn’s disease, these foods can also cause symptom flares. Limit your intake of insoluble fiber, which can be found in whole grains, nuts, raw vegetables, as well as in the skins and seeds of fruits.
Foods to eat when you have Crohn’s disease
You might think a Crohn’s diet is limiting, but there are still plenty of healthy choices you can eat to keep your diet interesting, such as the ones listed here:
Low-fiber fruits and vegetables
Most people with Crohn’s disease can usually eat fruits that are normally eaten without the covering — such as bananas and melons — as well as fruits that are peeled or cooked and aren’t served with the seeds. For vegetables, avoid cruciferous types, such as cabbage and broccoli, and stay away from vegetables with seeds. However, squash, potatoes, and asparagus tips are all good choices.
Poultry (white meat), tofu and other soy proteins, lean pork, and eggs are all good choices for most people with Crohn’s disease. As with any food, start with a little, then record your reactions to determine which proteins may be causing symptoms.
While you want to limit high-fiber foods, refined fiber foods, such as white rice, potato bread, and refined (white) pasta are generally well-tolerated. Oatmeal can be a good choice, too, but avoid sugary instant types.
How you eat is important, too
Some people with Crohn’s disease find their symptoms are more likely to occur when they eat large meals. Choosing to consume 4-6 smaller meals, instead of three larger meals, may help.
Avoid frying foods. Instead, opt for recipes that use boiling, poaching, baking, or grilling as the method of cooking.
Staying hydrated is important, too. Just skip carbonated drinks, caffeine, and alcohol, all of which can cause symptoms to worsen. Drinking straws may also pose a problem, since they typically cause you to ingest a lot more air, which can lead to uncomfortable bloating.
Crohn’s disease can be tricky to manage, but our team can help. To learn more about Crohn’s disease treatment, book an appointment online or over the phone with Digestive Disease Specialists today.