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Nutrition & Diet

Eating Healthy While Living with IBD

Many college students living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) have diet and nutrition concerns. IBD patients often believe that their disease is caused by, and can be cured by, diet. While diet can certainly affect symptoms of IBD, research and data suggest that it is not the primary factor in the inflammatory process.

Since Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis affect the digestive tract, it is only natural that you will have many questions about diet and nutrition. You may be surprised to learn that there is no evidence that anything in your diet history caused or contributed to your disease. However, once you develop IBD, paying special attention to what you eat may go a long way toward reducing symptoms and promoting healing.

There is not one set diet that is works for  everyone living with IBD—it is an individualized plan. Modifications in your diet depend on the symptoms you experience, the extent of your disease, and many other factors that can be determined by your physician. Two common symptoms of IBD include diarrhea and cramping. Note that because IBD affects every patient differently, certain foods may be OK for you to have, while other patients may not be as tolerant. Below are foods that have commonly been helpful, or not helpful in IBD. Talk to your dietician/nutritionist to see what works for you.

  • Things that may help: Bananas; white bread; white rice and cheese (if you're not lactose intolerant); an electrolyte drink diluted with water; fruit juices; applesauce; smooth peanut butter; bland soft foods such as crackers made with white flour, plain cereals, refined pastas, broth, canned varieties of fruit, cooked vegetables, potatoes without skin, broiled or steamed fish (e.g. herring, salmon, halibut, flounder, swordfish or pollack); using canola and olive oils; small and frequent meals; as well as nutritional supplements if you experience weight loss and your doctor’s approval.

  • Things that may hurt: Caffeine in coffee; tea and other beverages; fresh fruits and uncooked vegetables; high-fiber foods such as fiber-rich breads, cereals, nuts and leafy greens; high sugar foods; skins; seeds; popcorn; high fat foods; spicy foods; raw foods; prunes; beans; large food portions; dairy products if you are lactose intolerant; ice-cold liquids (even water); and too much of any type of liquid.

You may also want to consider keeping a food journal to help determine which foods you are able to tolerate and not tolerate during flare-ups. Finally, you should consult with your campus food services or college student services to see if meals that meet your dietary requirements are available.

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