Can Crohns Be Controlled With Diet?
No single diet has been shown to effectively treat or prevent Crohn’s disease, but you may help control symptoms by following a healthy eating plan and avoiding foods which cause flare-ups.
An RD can provide guidance in creating an eating plan and teaching techniques to manage stress and depression that might exacerbate symptoms.
Avoiding High-Fat Foods
Crohn’s disease flare-ups can often be brought on by eating fatty foods such as fried fish, meats and cheeses that put extra strain on your digestive system and worsen diarrhea and abdominal pain. To minimize fat in your diet, baking or broiling are better alternatives than frying. If this doesn’t alleviate symptoms for you, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in digestive health for a tailored eating plan to address symptoms more efficiently.
When experiencing a flare-up of Crohn’s Disease, try eating smaller meals more frequently to limit how much food enters your digestive tract. Also ensure your diet includes foods rich in nutrient such as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and folate; malabsorption of essential nutrients is often an issue associated with this condition.
Once in remission, it may be beneficial to switch up your diet while still avoiding foods which worsen symptoms. Speaking to a registered dietitian will help determine which foods should be added back into your daily regimen as well as the quantity that should be eaten of each food type.
Remission induction may be achieved using the Crohn’s disease exclusion diet, which emphasizes eliminating red meat, sugar and processed food from one’s diet in order to reduce inflammation and help those living with IBD enter remission. Studies have proven its efficacy for doing just this.
An alternative treatment for flare-ups is a low FODMAP diet, which reduces gastrointestinal symptoms by restricting foods that are poorly absorbed by your digestive tract. This diet restricts fructose; lactose; sugar polyols such as sorbitol and mannitol; as well as FODMAP group of fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides (FODMAPs).
In cases of severe flares, your doctor may suggest enteringal nutrition – liquid supplements delivered directly into the bloodstream through a tube in your stomach or intestines – for children who are malnourished due to Crohn’s disease, as well as adults who have lost most or all of their bowel function. This technique may be particularly helpful.
Avoiding Insoluble Fiber
Crohn’s disease causes their small intestine to become inflamed, leading to narrowing or thickening of its lining, which in turn may result in diarrhea and abdominal pain. Furthermore, inflammation may result in waste build-up leading to blockages arising either due to scar tissue caused by inflammation, fistulas or anal fissures or even combinations thereof.
People living with IBD often struggle to digest fiber, yet this is not the cause of their disease. Multiple studies indicate that high-fiber diets are linked with reduced rates of IBD; however, every individual’s fiber requirements will differ and a dietitian can help develop a diet tailored specifically to each person’s needs.
While fiber has been shown to help manage IBD symptoms, it’s still wise to limit consumption of foods that worsen them such as fatty and fried foods, nuts, popcorn, beans, seeds, coffee and caffeine. Furthermore, those suffering from Crohn’s should ensure adequate hydration.
A low FODMAP diet may be beneficial for individuals living with IBD as it restricts foods that may trigger digestive distress. While this diet is especially helpful during flares, it can also be used during remission to improve digestive function and alleviate symptoms.
Foods to avoid when living with Crohn’s include sugar alcohols like sorbitol and mannitol found in many products such as sugar-free gum, certain candy bars and some fruit juices and ice creams. Furthermore, fructose and lactose should also be avoided since they can trigger diarrhea in those living with this inflammatory bowel condition.
Crohn’s patients must also adhere to a healthy diet, but also take multivitamin and mineral supplements as part of a prevention strategy against dehydration and malnutrition, which may occur due to inability of digestive tract absorption of necessary nutrients.
People living with Crohn’s should visit their doctor to identify any nutrient deficiencies. Common deficiencies among IBD sufferers include folate, vitamin B12, iron and calcium deficiency. A blood test or stool sample will reveal any deficiencies present; alternatively if diet restrictions due to flareups require them to take oral medications to supply all required vitamins.
Avoiding Fruits and Vegetables
As soon as a person experiences a Crohn’s flare-up, it’s essential they understand which foods may worsen symptoms and should be limited as much as possible. A registered dietitian can assist in creating a diet plan tailored specifically to you that provides proper nutrition when symptoms worsen.
Foods that can be difficult for someone with Crohn’s to digest or that cause gas should be avoided during a flare-up of Crohn’s disease, including fruits and vegetables with high fiber levels, whole grains, seeds and nuts, cruciferous veggies and most dairy. In addition, spicy foods should also be avoided since these can act as an irritant and increase discomfort.
Individuals experiencing an flare-up should also pay close attention to their fluid intake and ensure they drink enough water throughout the day to remain hydrated. A low-fiber, liquid diet may also be an effective solution in alleviating symptoms during a flare-up.
Whenever Crohn’s flare-ups become prolonged or severe, physicians may suggest trying the FODMAP diet to decrease inflammation by restricting intake of foods containing fermentable, oligo-, di- and monosaccharides as well as polyols (sugars poorly absorbed by the gut). Studies have revealed that following such a plan can significantly decrease abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloating symptoms for many with Crohn’s.
Consuming multivitamin and calcium supplements may also be beneficial for those living with Crohn’s. Although difficult to get from diet alone, these essential nutrients are vital for overall health. A registered dietitian can identify any deficiencies and suggest appropriate treatments.
Enteral or parenteral nutrition is most useful during serious flare-ups or after major surgeries in which large portions of small intestine were lost, when large parts have been surgically removed, or when surgery leaves significant portions missing from small intestines. Enteral nutrition takes the form of liquid supplements administered via tube to act as meal replacements; its effectiveness has proven particularly powerful during flare-ups; leading to quick remission.
Crohn’s flare-ups may be made more severe by eating foods high in fat, fiber, dairy and carbonated beverages that aggravate digestion. By keeping track of what you eat and its impact on your symptoms during an attack can help avoid certain foods when your symptoms flare up. While no diet can cure Crohn’s disease completely, studies have demonstrated that an elimination diet containing highly processed foods may reduce both frequency and severity of flare ups as well as induce and sustain remission.
Sophie Medlin, RD, consultant dietitian at City Dietitians and chair for the British Dietetic Association for London says this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone with Crohn’s should cut dairy out of their diets altogether – milk can provide vital vitamin B12, iodine, calcium and probiotics which may help alleviate symptoms associated with Crohn’s. Yogurt may also contain probiotics which could aid in relieving symptoms related to Crohn’s.
People living with Crohn’s disease tend to have an increased risk of Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance, so it’s important to get tested. Furthermore, when experiencing a flare up it’s wise to steer clear from foods containing gluten as these could trigger symptoms and increase the likelihood of another flare-up.
Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins may provide essential nutrition during a flare-up, while it’s wise to limit processed food consumption and beverages. To help manage symptoms effectively and identify trigger foods more easily use Crohn’s and Colitis Canada MyGut app as a resource.
Crohn’s disease is not contagious and no single cause has been identified; however, stress and certain foods can aggravate symptoms. You can manage stress through relaxation techniques or participating in mind-body activities like yoga or meditation; you could also find support by joining an online forum or downloading the IBD Healthline app – both provide access to other people living with Crohn’s through one-on-one messaging and live group discussions.