When you struggle with stomach issues, it is difficult to know how to best fuel your body. This is especially true if you have been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC). If so, your dietary choices are more important than ever. Read on to learn more about the right diet for Crohn’s disease…one that is very specific to you.
My History with Crohn’s and UC
I was diagnosed with both of these conditions years ago, in the 1980s. At that time, I was absolutely miserable. Little did I know that it would be many years and additional diagnoses before I would connect the dots, but since then I have learned that all of my health problems were actually connected to my leaky gut.
Diet and nutrition make all the difference when it comes to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. They are also the key to healing your gut. As I’ve learned which foods I can tolerate and which I have to absolutely avoid (as well as other lifestyle changes, such as eliminating NSAIDs and other harmful medications), I have been able to heal my gut. As my gut has healed, the symptoms I experienced due to Crohn’s and UC have disappeared.
Is There a Special Diet for Crohn’s Disease
There is no single diet that works for everyone. What’s going on in your gut is very individual to your body. So what you need to eat is very individual, too. However, there are several excellent tips for a healthy diet that is nutrient rich, even if you struggle with an IBD.
What to eat when your Crohn’s is flaring up?
Living with Crohn’s is difficult, because it’s so unpredictable. Sometimes it’s okay, but then it flares up. For those who struggle with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, an elimination diet is an extremely effective way to figure out which foods will trigger symptoms such as cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. But it’s also important that you are able to get the necessary vitamins and minerals without making your symptoms worse as you determine your diet for Crohn’s disease. Here are some tips for eating during a flare:
- Try to stick with soft, bland foods.
- Only eat low-fiber fruits, like bananas, honeydew melon, and cantaloupes. Cooked fruits are often recommended for patients who have strictures or have had recent surgery.
- Choose lean proteins, like fish, white meat poultry, lean pork, soy, eggs, and tofu.
- Eat fully-cooked and skinless vegetables, such as asparagus tips, cucumbers, potatoes, and squash.
Certain foods may actually trigger your painful IBD symptoms. These will differ for each individual, but there are some foods that are considered the ‘usual suspects.’ Here are some foods to avoid:
- All baked goods
- Sugary foods, candy, and juices
- Greasy fried foods
- Spicy foods
- Insoluble fiber foods (think fruits with skin/seeds, raw green veggies, whole nuts, and whole grains)
- Caffeine and alcohol
- High-fat foods (butter, coconut, margarine, cream)
- Raw green vegetables
- Anything with lactose
Can sugar and gluten trigger Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis?
Gluten and sugar are two of the worst offenders when it comes to causing inflammation in the body. Crohn’s and UC are both inflammatory bowel disorders, so controlling inflammation is how you control your symptoms. Eliminating sugar and gluten made a huge difference for me. The meal plans we’ve developed for More Than Healthy, starting at Level 1 and working your way to Level 4, will walk you through each phase of the protocol, making it as easy as possible to determine which foods trigger your symptoms.
Crohn’s Disease Meal Plan
My wife Carla, a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor, recommends some food preparation and meal planning techniques as well. Doing these things can help patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s to keep flare-ups in check. They include:
- Instead of a few large meals, eat 4-6 small meals per day.
- Liquids matter. You need to drink enough to keep your urine a light yellow or clear. You can drink water, broth, tomato juice, or a rehydrating solution. Drink slowly and avoid using straws.
- Use simple cooking techniques, such as boiling, grilling, steaming, or poaching your food.
- Incorporate meal planning into your routine. If you prepare your meals in advance and keep your kitchen well-stocked with foods your gut can tolerate, you’ll be more likely to stay on track.
Using a Food Journal is Key
Carla and I know that using a food journal to track what you eat and what symptoms you experience is an important part of managing Crohn’s and other IBDs. Everyone’s ideal food plan is going to look different. That’s why tracking is so vital. At More Than Healthy, we have developed a Food Journal that makes tracking easy. We even have an app available for iPhone and Android so you can do it quickly and easily on your phone.
My Crohn’s and UC: An Update
Since my ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s diagnosis almost 40 years ago, I have learned which foods I can and can’t eat in order to have a healthy gut microbiome. Although Crohn’s is considered to be a chronic condition, meaning there is currently no cure and you have it for your entire life, I no longer suffer from its symptoms. And, impressively, recent colonoscopies show I no longer have any trace of either condition.
Am I a believer in the connection between what you eat and drink and chronic conditions like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis? You bet I am! I believe there is a diet for Crohn’s disease, because it made all the difference for me.
If you are struggling to manage one–or both– of these miserable diseases, I encourage you to consider our coaching program at More Than Healthy. You can work with Carla, a specialist in this area, to do an elimination diet, use a food journal, and find out which foods trigger your IBD. For those of us who have had to live with the disruption and discomfort of Crohn’s or UC, it can be absolutely life-changing!
Discover how you can begin your journey to healing your gut today.