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Guide To Crohn’s Diet: Foods To Eat & Avoid

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Foods to eat & trigger foods to avoid in order to feel your best with Crohn’s disease. 


Diet plays a crucial role in managing the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. And while navigating the world of food choices can be challenging, when armed with the right information, you can take proactive steps towards easing symptoms, reducing flare-ups, and improving overall quality of life. In this guide, we'll dive into foods to eat and trigger foods to avoid in order to feel your best.

What is Crohn’s?

Crohn’s disease, also known as regional enteritis or ileitis, is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that inflames and irritates the digestive tract. Although Crohn’s disease can affect any portion of the gastrointestinal tract, it most commonly affects the small and large intestine. IBD leads to an overactive immune system with excess TNF-alpha which, in turn, causes the immune system to attack healthy cells in the gastrointestinal tract.

How diet can impact Crohn’s

Anti-inflammatory diets 

Anti-inflammatory agents include corticosteroids (steroids that release hormones naturally produced by the adrenal glands), immunomodulators (substances that can influence the activity and functioning of the immune system), and biological agents (medications derived from living organisms or components of living organisms). These treatment options have been shown to help with reaching IBD remission. However, anti-inflammatory agents can’t be used for long, which is why anti-inflammatory diets (AID) are beneficial for IBD patients. 

Anti-inflammatory diets are rich in healthy fats, fiber-rich vegetables, and gut-friendly probiotics and prebiotics.  

Fiber

A plant-based diet contains a high amount of dietary fiber and is beneficial for major chronic diseases. Fiber is effective for gut inflammation and also helps with the general health of IBD patients. A high amount of dietary fiber (32.4 grams of dietary fiber for every 2000 calories) can be quite favorable for IBD — although there is some conflicting evidence around this...more on that below. 

Low-FODMAP

FODMAP (fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols) refers to certain kinds of carbohydrates that can cause fermentation in the gut. It includes sugars like fructose and lactose, and sugar alcohols. FODMAP foods can trigger symptoms like bloating, cramping, and abdominal pain in some people with IBD, which is why a low-FODMAP diet is preferred. Low-FODMAP involves eating fruits that are easily absorbed by the digestive tract and that help manage the symptoms of IBD. 

Low-FODMAP foods to try:

  • Eggs
  • Meat 
  • Gluten-free grains (rice, quinoa, oats)
  • Certain vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, cucumber)
  • Certain fruit (kiwi, oranges, cantaloupe, pineapple, berries) 

High-FODMAP foods to avoid:

  • Most dairy-based products
  • Beans & lentils
  • Certain vegetables (artichokes, garlic, onions, asparagus)
  • Certain fruits (apples, cherries, peaches, pears)

Another way to make fruits easier to tolerate for IBD patients is by peeling them and removing their seeds.

Mediterranean diet (MD)

The Mediterranean diet is an anti-inflammatory diet that prioritizes vegetables, fresh fruits, olive oil, legumes, poultry, beans, peas, whole grains, fish, nuts/seeds, and limited little amounts of lean red meat. It’s naturally low-carb, low in saturated fat, and high in unsaturated fats like omega-3s.

The Mediterranean diet affects the gut microbiome by boosting beneficial bacteria, something those with IBD tend to lack. It also helps with gut barrier function and reduces intestinal inflammation as well as the risk of later-onset Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. 

Foods that help with Crohn’s

Grains

The jury’s still out when it comes to high-fiber grains. 

Some research shows that fiber-rich grains may help reduce the risk of IBD and support general health for IBD patients. In fact, a 2015 study found that a diet that included fiber showed a high rate of remission for over 2 years.

However, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), people with Crohn’s may benefit from a low-fiber diet.

We recommend consulting your healthcare provider and/or dietitian for personalized advice. 

Protein  

Lean proteins are easier on the digestive systems of patients with IBD. Examples include chicken, turkey, fish, egg whites, tofu, shellfish, and low-fat Greek yogurt. Also, keep in mind that during a Crohn’s flare-up, patients require more protein because of the energy demands caused by inflammation. 

Healthy fats

Healthy fats (known as omega-3 fatty acids) are hugely beneficial for those with IBD. They can be found in antioxidant-rich foods like olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocado, fatty fish (sardines, mackerel, trout), and egg yolks. 

Healthy fats may help reduce inflammation and protect against cellular damage.

Foods to (mostly) avoid with Crohn’s 

Dairy products

IBD and lactose intolerance tend to coexist. Lactose may result in an increased risk for diarrhea, gas, or abdominal pain. Dairy products can also be high in fat, making them difficult to digest. Some dairy products to avoid include margarine, cream, and full-fat ice cream/yogurt.

People with Crohn’s should opt instead for low-fat dairy products (low-fat cheese, low-fat ice cream) and also reduce their intake. It’s also worth making use of enzyme products such as lactase (Lactaid) to help with flare-ups.

High-fat meat 

Consider steering clear of red meat, dark meat poultry, and sausages. 

Spices

Spicy food can be irritating for some people with Crohn’s and worsen their symptoms. Some spices to avoid are cayenne pepper, onions, jalapeños, paprika, garlic, black pepper, wasabi, and chili powder. 

Can vitamins/supplements help with Crohn’s? 

Vitamins and supplements can help prevent malnutrition if your small intestine can't absorb nutrients from whole foods properly.

Also, if your diet is restricted due to flare-ups, a multivitamin with minerals might help replace the nutrients you're missing. Getting enough calcium is also important, especially if you don't consume a lot of dairy.

Although supplements can be beneficial, it's important to talk to your healthcare professional and a registered dietitian first to confirm proper dosage and avoid any potential interactions with other medications.

The bottom line: dietary changes can complement infusion therapy for Crohn’s disease

Diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in complementing infusion therapy. A well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can enhance the effectiveness of infusion therapy and support the body's healing process. 

For example, some may experience side effects from infusion therapy, such as fatigue, nausea, or a weakened immune system. A healthy diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants can help support the immune system and promote overall health, which may reduce the risk of side effects.

READ MORE: Infusion Therapy For Crohn's: How It Works & What To Expect

Interested in Crohn's treatment at Local Infusion?

Local Infusion offers modern, state-of-the-art centers with private suites, designed with your comfort in mind.

From questions on what to expect in your first treatment, to providing financial guidance and support, a dedicated Infusion Guide works with you and your physician to provide clear answers and assistance every step of the way. Plus, we handle everything having to do with prior authorization.

We’ll reach out within hours of a physician referral and get you digitally on board in less than two minutes, allowing our staff more time to focus on you.

Should you have questions regarding pricing and insurance, our team will work with you to provide financial assistance support and minimize costs, providing a simple and stress-free experience.

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