What Should I Eat?

It’s not always easy knowing what foods best fuel your body, especially when you have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Your diet and nutrition are a major part of life with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), yet there is no single diet that works for everyone. 

Nutrition affects not just your IBD symptoms, but also your overall health and well-being. Without proper nutrients, the symptoms of your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can cause serious complications, including nutrient deficiencies, weight loss, and malnutrition

We have several tips for a healthy diet that’s well-balanced and nutrient rich. These tips are for educational purposes only. You should work with your doctor or a dietitian specializing in IBD to help you develop a personalized meal plan.

Food Preparation and Meal Planning

While there is no one-size-fits-all for meal planning, these tips can help guide you toward better daily nutrition:

  • Eat four to six small meals daily.

  • Stay hydrated — drink enough to keep your urine light yellow to clear — with water, broth, tomato juice, or a rehydration solution.

  • Drink slowly and avoid using a straw, which can cause you to ingest air, which may cause gas.

  • Prepare meals in advance, and keep your kitchen stocked with foods that you tolerate well (see list below).

  • Use simple cooking techniques — boil, grill, steam, poach.

  • Use a food journal to keep track of what you eat and any symptoms you may experience.

 

Eating When You are in a Flare

There are certain foods you may want to avoid when you are in an IBD flare, and others that may help you get the right amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals without making your symptoms worse.

Your healthcare team may put you on an elimination diet, in which you avoid certain foods in order to identify which trigger symptoms. This process will help you identify common foods to avoid during a flare. Elimination diets should only be done under the supervision of your healthcare team and a dietitian so they can make sure you are still receiving the necessary nutrients.

Some foods may trigger cramping, bloating, and/or diarrhea. Many trigger foods should also be avoided if you have been diagnosed with a stricture, a narrowing of the intestine caused by inflammation or scar tissue, or have had a recent surgery. Certain foods can be easier to digest and can provide you with the necessary nutrients your body needs.
 

Potential Trigger Foods

Foods IBD Patients May Tolerate 

Insoluble fiber foods that are hard to digest: fruits with skin and seeds, raw green vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or anything with a peel), whole nuts, and whole grains

Low-fiber fruits: bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and cooked fruits. This is typically recommended in patients who have strictures or have had a recent surgery

Lactose: sugar found in dairy, such as milk, cream cheese, and soft cheeses

Lean protein: fish, lean cuts of pork, white meat poultry, soy, eggs, and firm tofu

Non-absorbable sugars: sorbitol, mannitol, and other sugar alcohols found in sugar-free gum, candy, ice cream, and certain types of fruits and juices such as pear, peach, and prune

Refined grains: sourdough, potato or gluten-free bread, white pasta, white rice, and oatmeal

Sugary foods: pastries, candy, and juices

Fully cooked, seedless, skinless, non-cruciferous vegetables: asparagus tips, cucumbers, potatoes, and squash

High fat foods: butter, coconut, margarine, and cream, as well as fatty, fried, or greasy food

Oral nutritional supplements or homemade protein shakes: ask your doctor or your dietitian about what supplements may fit your nutritional needs

Alcohol and caffeinated drinks: beer, wine, liquor, soda, and coffee

 

Spicy foods: “hot” spices

 

Video Length 00:02:05

What to Eat When in a Flare When you have inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), and are in the middle of a flare, it is very important to avoid foods that may trigger additional symptoms and choose foods that are healing and nutritious. Watch and listen to learn more on dietary recommendations when in a flare.

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Eating When You are in Remission

It’s important to maintain a diverse and nutrient-rich diet even when you are in remission and your symptoms have subsided, or even disappeared. Introduce new foods slowly. Remember to stay hydrated with water, broth, tomato juice, and rehydration solutions. Consult with your doctor or dietitian before making any changes to your diet.

These foods can help you stay healthy and hydrated:

  • Fiber-rich foods: oat bran, beans, barley, nuts, and whole grains, unless you have an ostomy, intestinal narrowing, or if your doctor advises you to continue a low-fiber diet due to strictures, or recent surgery

  • Protein: lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and tofu

  • Fruits and vegetables: try to eat as many “colors” as you can, and remove the peel and seeds if they bother you

  • Calcium-rich foods: collard greens, yogurt, kefir, and milk (if you are lactose intolerant, choose lactose-free dairy products or use a lactase digestive enzyme)

  • Food with probiotics: yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and tempeh

Video Length 00:02:10

Eating When in Remission When you are in remission with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), it is very important to focus on maintaining a diverse and nutrient rich diet. Watch and listen to learn more on dietary recommendations when in remission.

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