With Crohn’s disease, food reactions are often individualized. While most chronic conditions benefit from a Mediterranean diet, those who suffer from Crohn’s may find that too much fiber leads to a flare-up. Raw foods may also be problematic. So how do you know what foods to eat and what to avoid?
Your best bet is to keep a diary of your diet and the reactions you have after each meal. Start with simple recipes with few ingredients so it’s easy to identify which food makes you feel a certain way.
However, despite there being no one-size-fits-all dietary approach and keeping a diary of your reactions is best, there are still certain foods that most Crohn’s patients either tolerate very well or don’t tolerate at all. The list is not exhaustive, but it is a place to start in your healing journey. We asked our Carolina Digestive Health Associates experts to share with you four foods to eat and avoid with Crohn’s.
While Crohn’s isn’t cured or caused by dietary choices, certain foods can definitely increase your chance of a flare-up.
It may sound counterintuitive — aren’t whole grains considered healthy? While they may help prevent other conditions, whole grains are hard to digest, and for people suffering from digestive diseases, they may cause diarrhea and flatulence.
Fiber is another controversial topic. Some Crohn’s sufferers do well on high-fiber diets, while most don’t. Fiber can sometimes irritate; with Crohn’s, you may already be sensitive due to inflammation.
Seeds are hard to digest for anyone, but they can be especially problematic for people with Crohn’s. Your best bet is to experiment with roasted seeds.
Spicy foods irritate the intestinal tract, so a good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that is overly spicy, which may include cayenne pepper, wasabi, black pepper, and allspice. In the case of pepper, some people tolerate white pepper better as it’s milder.
With so many restrictions, it’s hard to find delicious recipes. Fortunately, many foods you can experiment with have a lesser chance of triggering a flare-up.
Meats are relatively easy to digest; the only problem lies with the fats. Some people suffering from Crohn’s may have trouble digesting fat, which is essential to a healthy diet. Choosing lean cuts is a safe choice, but so is eating a little bit of fat with each meal to ensure you aren’t overwhelming your system or depriving yourself of essential fatty acids.
Because Crohn’s is so often associated with inflammation, having something in your diet that is an antagonist to inflammation can be beneficial. Salmon, tuna, and mackerel are all rich sources of omega-3. Unfortunately, the omega-3 found in nuts and seeds isn’t as easily broken down and used by the human body.
People suffering from Crohn’s may struggle with raw plant-based foods. Fortunately, cooking negates some of these foods' negative effects on Crohn’s. Potatoes, rice, and oatmeal, once cooked, are quite Crohn’s-friendly.
Just because you might not tolerate fiber well doesn’t mean you should skip fruits and vegetables altogether. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can choose from. Low-fiber fruits and vegetables include carrots, beets, potatoes, string beans, tomatoes, leafy greens, bananas, melons, papaya, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, and plums.
Dietary changes can help with your Crohn’s, but food doesn’t cause your condition, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for indulging in “forbidden food” occasionally. Research suggests that many people who suffer from digestive conditions end up suffering from eating disorders too, out of a desire to try to control the disease.
Constant monitoring of food intake and choices can be quite stressful, and our Carolina Digestive Health Associates team understands the struggle most of their Crohn’s patients are going through. They understand that food is only one piece of the puzzle. Medications are often needed to control the inflammation. Contact us to schedule an appointment to get expert advice and personalized treatment.