If you suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease, you know the importance of an appropriate diet.
If you suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC), you are certainly aware of the issues that can arise from certain foods and beverages. Not only do these conditions trigger inflammation in the digestive system and uncomfortable symptoms, but they also ignite long term consequences, which can include malnutrition. While there is no well known cure-all diet for Crohn’s disease or UC, avoiding certain foods at all costs may help to prevent flare ups.
Tracking the good and the bad
The top 5 foods to avoid with Crohn’s disease and UC include the following:
- Grains – Grains are common dietary seeds that are high in fiber. Seeing as how a body affected by IBD is unable to fully absorb fiber, this may increase your chances of abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Avoid food made from whole grain flour, such as breads, pastas, and cereals. In addition, avoid brown rice, quinoa, rye and rye products, and barley. Instead, try well cooked white rice, potatoes, cornmeal, gluten-free bread, and oatmeal.
- Fruits and vegetables – The truth of the matter is that raw produce may trigger painful symptoms for the same reason as grains – high content of unabsorbable fiber. However, you do not necessarily have to eliminate all types of fruits and vegetables from your diet.
Avoid foods that are raw, dried, or have seeds that cannot be removed. Limit apples, peaches, plums, cherries, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, and cabbage. Instead, try applesauce, bananas, cantaloupe, pumpkin, bell peppers, peeled cucumbers, and steamed or well cooked vegetables.
- Meats with high fat content – When it comes to preventing flare ups, you should make your protein selections based on fat content. Choosing proteins with lower fat is a better option.
Avoid red meat, dark meat poultry, and sausages. Instead, try fish, pork tenderloin, white meat poultry, tofu and other soy products.
- Dairy products – It is a well known fact that individuals with Crohn’s disease and UC do not tolerate dairy very well. This is because lactose intolerance tends to occupy the same space as IBD and lactose increases your risk of abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Avoid butter, cream, margarine, and full-fat dairy products. Instead, try dairy substitutes made from plants such as soy, almond, coconut, or flex.
- Caffeine and carbonated beverages – Individuals with IBD may have trouble with caffeine and carbonated beverages. These beverages can aggravate the digestive system and trigger discomforting symptoms, such as unwanted gas and diarrhea.
Avoid/limit coffee, alcohol, sodas, and some beers.
Putting as little stress as possible on the digestive system
Crohn’s disease and UC are chronic conditions that affect each individual differently. Seeing as how your symptoms may vary over time, this is what makes it difficult to recommend one type of diet plan.
Residue refers to the material left in the digestive system following the initial stages of digestion. These materials often contain massive amounts of fiber because the body is unable to fully digest fiber. Fiber is a protective nutrient for the colon and it should be reduced when you are experiencing acute symptoms, like a flare up or strictures.
A low residue diet increases the time that food spends traveling throughout your digestive system. In turn, a slower digestion process decreases the amount of stool that your body produces. This type of diet reduces fiber and “scrap” that can stay behind and irritate the bowels, thereby alleviating your symptoms and helping you to recover more quickly. However, seeing as how fiber protects the health of your colon tissue and your gut bacteria, gradually re-introducing high fiber foods can increase your chances of remission.
If you decide to follow a low residue diet, you are to consume no more than 10-15 grams of fiber on a daily basis. The types of food and portion size, as well as how long you follow the diet, should be determined based on your individual needs. Generally, a low residue diet consists of foods such as white bread, white rice, pasta, poultry, fish, well cooked vegetables without skin, some raw fruits, eggs, etc. They can be changed based on how your body reacts to the diet.
It is also necessary to drink additional fluids, especially water, in order to avoid constipation.
Outlook and dietary considerations
Fruits, vegetables, and grains provide the body with important antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Following a low residue diet may not provide enough vitamin C, folic acid, or nutrients for gut bacteria. And all of these nutrients are essential for good health.
That being said, try to follow a healthy and well balanced diet to prevent Crohn’s disease or UC flare ups. Keep in mind, however, that foods and beverages tend to affect individuals with these conditions differently. A certain food or beverage that aggravates your symptoms may not necessarily aggravate someone else’s. The best approach to determining what foods to eat or to avoid is through a food journal. Keeping a daily food journal will allow you to make informed decisions about potentially bad foods. Some of the things to consider jotting down include the date, foods eaten, time of day food was eaten, any immediate reactions, as well as any flares or worsening symptoms.
If you believe that a certain food or beverage is triggering your flare ups, try eliminating it from your diet to see if your symptoms improve. You can add it back in later and if you notice that your symptoms resume, it may be best to avoid it altogether. Moreover, smaller, frequent meals can reduce the work of your digestive system.
While diet plays a vital role in overall Crohn’s disease and UC management, both of these conditions are multifactorial and complex. They often require additional supporting treatment options, not just diet alone. This is because diet can help to prevent and ease your symptoms, but food itself may not be sufficient enough to address the underlying inflammation and scarring that is triggering your symptoms to begin with.
Continue to see your doctor for treatment and follow-ups. Be sure to discuss any differences you may notice in symptoms and have him or her address any questions or concerns that you may have. Additionally, nutrition counseling may help to individualize your nutritional approach, enhance the efficacy of your medications, and improve your overall quality of life.