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Creating a Crohn's disease diet plan

If you have Crohn's disease, you have probably found that certain foods trigger your intestinal symptoms, especially when the disease flares up. Learning to avoid these food triggers may allow you to self-manage your Crohn's disease, reduce gastrointestinal symptoms and promote intestinal healing.

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are two types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Both involve an immune reaction against the intestinal tract.

In ulcerative colitis, the colon is inflamed and the small intestine works normally. With Crohn's disease, the small intestine can be inflamed, making it hard to digest and absorb key nutrients from food. The lack of sufficient nutrients, along with a poor appetite, can lead to malnutrition for people with Crohn's disease. That malnutrition may result from alterations in taste, reduced food or nutrient intake, lack of sufficient nutrients or the inflammatory bowel disease process itself.

When Crohn's disease affects just the small intestine it results in diarrhoea and undernourishment. When the large intestine is also inflamed, the diarrhoea can be severe. Severe diarrhoea combined with malnutrition often leads to problems. For example, a person with Crohn's disease may suffer from anaemia and have low levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid.

Nutritional deficiencies and an inability to maintain a normal weight are serious problems for many people, even children, with Crohn's disease.

What is a Crohn's disease diet plan?

You've probably read about different types of diets for Crohn's disease on the Internet. But the fact is there is no scientifically proven diet for inflammatory bowel disease. Most experts believe, though, that you can identify specific foods that trigger your gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, particularly during disease flare ups. By avoiding your "trigger foods," you may find that your GI symptoms of wind, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping and diarrhoea are more manageable. At the same time, you will give your inflamed intestines time to heal.

With Crohn's disease, it's important to follow a high-calorie, high-protein diet, even when you don't feel like eating. An effective Crohn's disease diet plan, based on recommendations from experts, would emphasise eating regular meals, plus an additional two or three snacks, each day. That will help ensure you get ample protein, calories and nutrients. Additionally, you will need to take your doctor-recommended vitamin and mineral supplements. By doing so you will be able to replenish the necessary nutrients in your body.

Which foods should I avoid with a Crohn's disease diet plan?

The foods that trigger symptoms differ for each person with Crohn's disease. To know which foods to leave out of your diet plan, you'll need to determine which foods trigger yours. Many people with Crohn's disease find that the foods on the following list aggravate symptoms during disease flare ups. So it's likely that at least some of these listed foods will trigger your symptoms:

  • Alcohol
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Spicy food
  • Fatty food
  • High-fibre foods

Once you've identified foods that cause your symptoms to flare up, you can choose either to avoid them or to learn new ways of preparing them that will make them tolerable. To do that, you'll need to experiment with various foods and methods of preparation to see what works best for you. For instance, if certain raw vegetables trigger a flare up, you don't necessarily need to give them up. You may find that steaming them, boiling them, or stewing will allow you to eat them without increased GI symptoms. If red meat increases fat in the stools, you could try eating minced sirloin to see if you can tolerate a leaner cut of beef. Or you might decide to rely on low-fat poultry without skin and fish as your main sources of protein.

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