Special IBD Diets

Your diet can be helpful in managing your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) during flares and periods of remission. Your healthcare team, including a registered dietitian specializing in IBD, may recommend a particular diet based on your symptoms.

While several specialized diets may be helpful for some IBD patients, no one plan has been proven to prevent or control IBD with the exception of enteral nutrition, which is delivered in a nutrient-rich formula.

Specialized IBD diets are often debated in the medical community because they don’t work in every case and can be restrictive, which may lead to weight loss or malnutrition. The best diet is one that meets your individual nutritional needs and helps you manage your IBD symptoms.

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation does not endorse any specific diet and is providing information for educational purposesDo not attempt one of these diets until you discuss a plan with your doctor or registered dietitian.

Carbohydrate Exclusion Diets

These diet plans limit or totally exclude grains, fiber, and certain sugars. There are a few different types of carbohydrate exclusion diets, including the Specific Carbohydrate Diet™ (SCD™) which is being studied as part of a research collaboration between the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

SCD™ eliminates all refined and processed foods, along with soy, lactose, sucrose, and grains. Certain vegetables are also taken out of your diet, including potatoes, okra, and corn. This diet can cause your body to run low on B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E, so stay in close contact with your healthcare team to make sure you remain nutritionally healthy.

Semi-Vegetarian Diet

This diet is most commonly recommended to hospitalized IBD patients in Japan. There, doctors recommend a  daily diet that includes eggs, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, legumes, brown rice, miso, and pickled vegetables, along with the occasional glass of milk and green tea.

This diet calls for limited animal proteins—fish once a week and meat just once every two weeks. One study found that patients on a semi-vegetarian diet were less likely to relapse into a flare after two years, compared to patients who did not follow this diet.

Mediterranean Diet

This diet is rich in fiber and plant-based foods, including olive oil, low-fat dairy, herbs, and spices. This diet is being compared against Specific Carbohydrate Diet™  in the research study by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and PCORI.

There is little to no red meat in this diet, while poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt are recommended in moderation.

Low-Fiber Diet

This diet is recommended to reduce both cramping and bowel movements by decreasing your fiber intake. That means avoiding green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, popcorn, whole grains, and raw fruits with peels.

Eating a low-fiber diet can be especially helpful when you have a stricture or bowel obstruction, or after surgery when your gut may need a little extra time to recover before taking on a regular diet.

Low-FODMAP Diet

FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides and Polyols. The language may sound complicated, but it is a diet that cuts back on a group of sugars that can be poorly absorbed by your GI tract. This includes foods containing fructose, lactose, sugar polyols (sorbitol and mannitol), fructans (found in garlic, leeks, artichokes, and wheat), and galacto-oligosaccharides (found in lentils, chickpeas, and green peas).

A low-FODMAP diet is meant only for short-term use and it may be recommended to help reduce your IBD symptoms. Research hasn’t yet shown it to reduce IBD inflammation.

Gluten-Free Diet

This diet cuts out gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye food products. Some IBD patients have found that a gluten-free diet reduces their symptoms, but researchers have not proven that it reduces IBD inflammation.

There are some risks to your nutrition with this diet. Gluten-free products lack some necessary nutrients and they are often higher in fat, which can lead to weight gain. Your doctor may want to test you for celiac disease before starting you on a gluten-free diet.