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Best Crohn’s Disease Diet: Food Triggers for IBD

Crohn's disease diet
Your diet for Crohn’s disease will vary depending on the food triggers that result in your symptoms.

Crohn’s disease is one of the two inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), apart from ulcerative colitis. It is a chronic condition that has no cure. However, medications, surgery (when necessary) and dietary modifications can help you lead a better quality of life.

Living with Crohn’s means paying special attention to your diet, which includes being able to consume different foods during flares and remissions. Flares are periods when you experience the symptoms of the disease, while remissions are the times in between the flares when you are symptom-free.

What are the best foods to eat during flares of Crohn’s disease?

Flares of Crohn’s disease can be triggered by certain foods. Your dietician will put you on an elimination diet after identifying those triggers. Identify your triggers by maintaining a food diary in which you write down items that trigger your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms.

These triggers are most likely insoluble fiber foods (that are hard to digest), sugary foods, high-fat foods and spicy foods. Some people may also find that alcoholic drinks and non-absorbable sugars (such as sorbitol) also cause their IBD flares. Remember, triggers may differ from person to person.

Potential food triggers of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Fruits with skin and seeds (something as innocent as strawberries and tomatoes)
  • Raw green vegetables (especially with peels)
  • Whole nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Red meat
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Fried foods
  • Pastries
  • Candies
  • Pear
  • Peach
  • Prune
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Chocolate

During a flare, you will need to avoid a high-fiber diet (especially food that contains soluble fiber) or reduce your overall fiber intake, which means foods low in fiber are your best bet. But, you should also consume food items that are dense in nutrients. 

Some of the best foods for a flare of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew melon
  • Cooked fruits
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lean cuts of pork
  • White meat
  • Gluten-free bread
  • White pasta
  • White rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Fully cooked, seedless, skinless vegetables, such as: 
    • Asparagus tips
    • Cucumbers
    • Potatoes
    • Squash

Oral nutritional supplements or homemade protein shakes are also one of the best food options for Crohn’s disease. Ask your doctor or your dietitian about what supplements will work best for you.

What are the best foods to eat during the remission of Crohn’s disease?

You should not ignore your nutritional needs even after your symptoms of Crohn’s disease have disappeared. Remissions of Crohn’s also require a rich supply of nutrients, such as proteins and calorie-dense foods.

This is also the time when you should avoid ingesting refined grains and instead opt for whole wheat food (unless you have a gluten intolerance). You should also seek high-fiber foods, as compared to the low-fiber diet recommended during flares. 

Best diet during remission of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Oat bran
  • Beans
  • Barley
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains 
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Fruits and vegetables (remove the peel and seeds if they do not suit you)
  • Collard greens
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Food with probiotics, such as:
    • Kefir
    • Kimchi
    • Miso
    • Sauerkraut
    • Tempeh

Choose lactose-free dairy products if you are lactose intolerant. If gluten causes gastric discomfort, it is better to avoid wheat-containing foods.

Your doctor will also make changes in your diet and ask you to eat low-fiber foods if you had an ostomy, had been diagnosed with strictures or had recent surgery. Listen to your doctor’s advice.

The diet mentioned above is general for all patients with Crohn’s disease and is meant only for educational purposes. Consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist to decide the best diet plan as per your specific trigger foods and nutritional requirements. A wrong diet can lead to the worsening of Crohn’s, nutritional deficiencies and weight loss.

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