Crohn’s Disease Treatment Diet, according to a RD

If you suffer from Crohn’s disease, you’ve most likely been experimenting with different foods in your diet. Having to maneuver through restaurants, social gatherings, and food labels can be a stressful trigger in itself. Food related flare-ups can lead to a diminished quality of life and a decreased of motivation to eat, only making matters worse. Without a wholesome diet, Crohn’s can lead to severe malnutrition.

There’s no cure all diet for Crohns. Everyone is unique and every body responds differently. It is important to work with your primary care physician to discuss the optimal diet and treatment. Using this dietary guide will improve your self-management and help you feel in control of your condition. Learning to avoid foods that cause a flare-up will help reduce symptoms and promote healing of your body and mind.

 

Prepare for a flare(up)

While having a flare-up, you want to focus on easily digestible, nourishing foods. Your digestive system has been inflamed, injured, and abused. Take time to rest and digest. The goal is to find your trigger food(s) by playing detective and finding out what makes your body react.

It’s important to focus on high-calorie, high protein, and nutrient-rich foods. Even if you don’t feel hungry, aim for 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Smaller, more frequent meals will help you reach your nutrient goals. If you are unable to eat solid foods, focus on soft foods such as smoothies, broths, mashed potatoes, applesauce.

 

Count on Carbohydrates

Dietary fiber is extremely healthy for preventing disease, but since it is not digested it may lead to diarrhea and pain. Some Crohn’s cases have been related to a gluten allergy or sensitivity. Carbs on the FODMAP diet have been linked to IBD. They may lead to extra gas and fermentation in your gut.

Avoid or limit:

  • Whole wheat or whole grain products
  • Gluten containing foods (wheat, rye, barley, couscous, malt, etc)
  • Beans, lentils, legumes

Focus on:  

  • Potato and yam
  • Oatmeal
  • Gluten-free bread or pasta
  • Rice  

 

Pick your protein

It’s important to follow a high-calorie, high-protein diet because nutrients are not readily absorbed with Crohn’s. When it comes to choosing protein, focus on lower fat, plant-based, and cooked for easier digestion.

Avoid or limit:

  • Fried or breaded meat
  • Processed meats such as sausage
  • Large quantities of red meat

Focus on:  

  • Eggs (if you can handle them)
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Tofu (if not following FODMAP diet)

 

Focus on the right fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are full of healing nutrients, however those that are raw, high in fiber, and on the FODMAP diet may cause a lot of stress to the digestive system.

Avoid or limit:

  • Cruciferous vegetables (Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower)
  • Raw fruits and vegetables with skin
  • Berries
  • Garlic and onion

Focus on:  

  • Well-cooked vegetables
  • Bananas
  • Melon
  • Applesauce
  • Smoothies

 

Beware of some beverages

Staying hydrated is extremely important, particularly if you’ve been having diarrhea. Aim for a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day and focus on beverages with electrolytes if you’ve been having the runs. Alcohol is dehydrating and irritating so enjoy in moderation and pair with a meal and extra glass of water.

Avoid or limit:

  • Coffee
  • Caffeinated tea
  • Soda
  • Alcohol (wine, beer, spirits)

Focus on:  

  • Water
  • Herbal tea
  • Broth

 

Ditch the dairy

With a damaged stomach lining, comes decreased production of lactase, the enzyme that helps break down dairy products. This can lead to diarrhea, gas, and cramps. Since many people suffering from Crohn’s have a dairy intolerance, we recommend keeping it to minimum.

Avoid or limit:

  • Milk
  • Butter and cream
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream

Focus on:  

  • Non-dairy alternatives (hemp milk, coconut milk, almond milk)
  • Yogurt (unsweetened, low-fat)
  • Taking lactase enzyme with dairy as needed

 

Some sauces and seasonings

Spicy foods can irritate the stomach lining, making symptoms worse. Packaged sauces such as mayo, which are full of fat, can cause diarrhea. Aim for nutrient-boosting and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices.  

Avoid or limit:

  • Pepper, chili, hot sauce, and wasabi
  • Garlic and onions
  • Fatty sauces and oils (mayo, butter, margarine, oils)
  • Artificial sweeteners

Focus on:  

  • Fresh herbs
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger

 

Once you identify what causes your symptoms to flare-up you can take steps to change your diet, focusing on the foods you can tolerate. Be creative and try new cooking methods, recipes, and preparation styles. It may be as simple as switching spices or cooking your vegetables. Finding pleasure in your meals and normalcy in your habits will help motivate you to eat. Rather than thinking of what you will lack, focus on what you can add and experiment with. The better you take care of yourself today, the sooner you will be back on track to feeling healthy and energized.

 

This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietician and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Content is based on her professional knowledge, and our collection of 100+ scientific research study papers.