What Should I Eat?

What Should I Eat?

What Should I Eat?

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis may cause a variety of symptoms and complications, which, if not addressed, can lead to nutrient deficiencies and weight loss.

Because of the diverse biological and clinical characteristics of each IBD patient, there is no single diet that works for everyone. However, it is best for all patients to try and maintain a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet. If you are struggling with what to eat, it is recommended that you talk with your provider or meet with a dietitian who specializes in IBD to develop a personalized meal plan that's right for you. Below are some general recommendations and tips on what to eat when in a flare and what to eat when in remission:

Eating When in a Flare

Diet Woman Buying Groceries

These dietary recommendations are aimed at easing symptoms during flares and ensuring that you get the required amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to promote healing. During flares, certain foods or beverages may irritate the digestive tract and worsen symptoms. Elimination Diets (avoiding trigger foods) can be used to determine which foods should be avoided or Elimination diets should be done under the supervision of your healthcare team and a dietitian to ensure that you are substituting other foods that provide the same nutrients.

Video: What to Eat When in a Flare

Diet Brownie

Consider Limiting Potential Trigger Foods

Certain foods may cause increased cramping, bloating and diarrhea and you may have to temporarily limit these foods if you are in the midst of a more severe flare and/or have a stricture. Foods/nutrients that may trigger symptoms are:

  • Insoluble Fiber Foods: Insoluble fiber is found in plant foods, including fruit with skin/seeds, raw green vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower or anything with a peel, whole nuts, and whole grains
  • Lactose: Lactose is a sugar found in dairy (i.e. milk, cream, soft cheeses)
  • Non-absorbable Sugars: Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol) can be found in sugar-free gum, candy, ice cream, and certain types of fruits/juices such as pear, peach and prune
  • Sugary Foods: Pastries and juices
  • High Fat Foods: Butter, coconut, margarine, and cream, as well as food that is fatty, fried or greasy 
  • Alcohol or Caffeinated drinks: Beer, wine, liquor, sodas, and coffee
  • Spicy Foods

Recommended Foods

  • Refined grains: Sourdough, potato or gluten-free bread, white pasta, white rice, and oatmeal
  • Low-fiber fruits: Bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and cooked fruits
  • Fully cooked, seedless, skinless, non-cruciferous vegetables: Asparagus tips, cucumbers, and squash
  • Lean sources of protein: Fish, white meat poultry, lean cuts of pork, soy, eggs, and firm tofu
  • Lactose Free Dairy: Lactose free milk, yogurt, and hard cheese (cheddar, parmesan)

You may also want to consider oral nutrition supplements or homemade protein shakes if you are eating less than normal or are losing weight. Consult with your healthcare provider or dietitian to find out what supplements are right for your nutritional needs.

Food Preparation and Meal Planning Tips

  • Eat four-six small meals daily.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking enough to keep your urine light yellow to clear.
  • Broth, tomato juice, and rehydration solutions* are options in addition to water. Drink slowly and avoid using a straw (which can cause ingestion of gas).
  • Prepare meals in advance, and keep your home stocked with your safe foods.
  • Use simple cooking techniques (boil, grill, steam, poach) to prepare nutritious, healing foods, including grilled filled, poached eggs, steamed veggies, and boiled and mashed potatoes.
  • Keep a food journal to help keep track of what you eat and symptoms you may experience.

Dietary planning is individualized from patient to patient. Meet with your healthcare team and a dietitian to develop a more personalized approach.

*Homemade Rehydration Solution Recipe (4 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 6 teaspoons of sugar/honey/maple syrap and a squeeze of lime or lemon or orange)

Eating When in Remission

Dietary recommendations should be tailored to your individual needs depending on what part of your intestine is affected, your symptoms, disease status, and current nutrition status. When you are in remission, it is very important to focus on maintaining a diverse and nutrient rich diet. Any changes to your diet should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider and a dietitian.

Video: What to Eat During Remission

Diet Man Drinking Water

What Should I Eat?

  • Stay hydrated by drinking enough to keep your urine light yellow to clear. Broth, tomato juice, and rehydration solutions* are options in addition to water. Drink slowly and avoid using a straw (which can cause ingestion of gas).
  • Choose foods with more fiber (oat bran, beans, barley, nuts, whole grains), unless you have an ostomy, intestinal narrowing or your doctor advises you to continue a low fiber diet long term.
  • Include proteins like lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and tofu.
  • Try to incorporate more “colors” (i.e. green, orange, red) by eating more varied fruits and vegetables (can peel and remove seeds)
  • Include rich sources of calcium such as milk (if lactose intolerant, choose lactose-free dairy products or use a lactase digestive enzyme), collard greens, yogurt, and kefir.
  • Try foods that contain probiotics such as yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and tempeh.
*Homemade Rehydration Solution Recipe (4 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 6 teaspoons of sugar/honey/maple syrap and a squeeze of lime or lemon or orange)

General Recommendations/Nutritional Tips

  • There is no single diet or eating plan that works for everyone so work with your healthcare team and/or dietitian to create a plan that works for you.
  • Get tested for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including iron, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D levels, which are often low in patients with IBD.
  • Keep a food journal to track your symptoms.
  • Slowly introduce new foods into your diet.