Eating with Crohn’s & UC
Anyone with IBD knows how much having the disease sucks. It limits what you can do, where you can go (in proximity to a bathroom), and what you can eat. While you can’t control when you are going to flare or need the bathroom, you can control your diet and try to suit it to help you feel as well as you can.
Whether or not you are on a special diet, it’s always important to keep track of any foods that may trigger you. For some people, that’s spicy foods, for others dairy. Each person is different so please don’t take what I write as an end-all be-all for IBD diets. Do what works best for you. So without further ado, here are some of the more common diets and food restrictions for Crohnies.
First and foremost, unless you are masochistic, caffeine is HORRIBLE for IBD patients. Caffeine stimulates your intestines, can intensify cramping, and cause diarrhea. So that should be eliminated from IBD diets if possible.
This isn’t a food but I feel like it should be mentioned anyway. When Dan had his surgery, at one of his follow up appointments his surgeon told Dan that he was never, ever to smoke. Smoking can cause relapses and increase your need for surgery. So cut the habit out as soon as possible.
Low-Fiber, Low-Residue Diet
When Dan was first diagnosed, he had to go on a low-fiber, low-residue diet due to the severe stricture he had in his small intestines (picture it: the opening he had in the stricture was a quarter the size of one’s pinky. a healthy person’s would be about the size of a pinky).
What does low-fiber and low-residue entail? Good question- we had no idea when we were first told he needed to eat this way. After a lot of research, we realized it basically meant he had to be on a meat diet- cut out all high fiber and insoluble fiber foods which are hard to digest. He also had to avoid things like seeds, corn, and nuts because they could get stuck in his stricture.
For someone who loves to eat, like Dan, these diet restrictions can be incredibly frustrating. I bought a great cookbook, the Crohn’s & Colitis Diet Guide, right after he was put on this diet that not only provided you with lists of foods to eat and foods to avoid but also recipes of foods that work on whatever diet you may be on. Check it out on Amazon here.
Here are some low-fiber and low-residue foods that are really good sources of proteins and deliciousness to help perk up your Crohnie’s diet.
- Eggs: chock full of protein and easy to digest, this was a staple for Dan after he had his blockage before the surgery.
- Oatmeal: surprisingly this is another good comfort food that is easy on the belly. Add things like cinnamon or sugar to spice it up but avoid eating it with certain fruits.
- Smooth Nut Butters: things like creamy peanut butter, almond butter and others are great alternative to ingesting nuts, which are hard to digest and could get stuck in someone with a stricture. They are packed with vitamins and high in protein.
- Rice: an obvious choice for an upset belly and a good binding grain.
- Certain fruits are allowable as they are easily digestible and jam packed with nutrients. These include bananas, avocados, mango, papaya, and cantaloupe. Just don’t eat the seeds (not that you’d want to)!
The fat content in some foods may bother some people. Some high fat foods include peanut butter, some cheeses, and ice cream. Try low-fat varieties if the higher fat ones do bother you.
This isn’t true for everyone but after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, Dan became lactose intolerant. This is unfortunate since his favorite food is cheese.
We’ve remedied this by making sure he takes Lactaid pills before eating large amounts of dairy and by buying Lactaid milk. There are also certain cheeses that are low in lactose and some that are lactose free (I’m familiar with these since I am lactarded as well- Cabot’s cheddar cheeses are lactose free!). There are also non-dairy options like Soy Milk, Almond Milk, and Rice Milk as well as some non-dairy ice creams and cheeses. I’ve never consumed them though and thus cannot tell you how appetizing they are.
Another one on a case-by-case basis, alcohol has different effects on people. For Dan, beer bothers his stomach but hard liquor is fine in moderation. That’s the key- moderation. With the heavy duty medications that Crohn’s patients are on, it’s extremely important to practice moderation when consuming alcohol as to not get violently ill on top of your already painful cramps, diarrhea, etc.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet
I must preface this section and state that I know nothing about this diet so I apologize if any of this information is incorrect. A lot of IBD patients are beginning to go on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) to address their belly issues. According to the diet’s website,
The allowed carbohydrates are monosaccharides and have a single molecule structure that allow them to be easily absorbed by the intestine wall. Complex carbohydrates which are disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (chain molecules) are not allowed. Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested feed harmful bacteria in our intestines causing them to overgrow producing by products and inflaming the intestine wall. The diet works by starving out these bacteria and restoring the balance of bacteria in our gut.
The diet depends a lot on homemade yogurt (they call it SCD Yoghurt) which is yogurt that has been fermented for 24 hours). The site has a good resource list of foods that are allowed and not allowed (they call it Legal and Illegal). Some legal foods include acorn squash, almond butter, bacon (once-a-week), beef, fish, lamb, lentils, melon, poultry, and shellfish. Illegal foods include beer, chewing gum, chocolate (boo!), coffee, cottage cheese, cream cheese, flour, hot dogs, ice cream, mozzarella cheese, pasta, potatoes, and rice.
As I said above, each person is individual and diets will vary case by case and by the severity of your disease. It’s important to keep a food diary or at least a running list of foods that are good and foods that are triggers so you know what to avoid and what’s good.
I’m sure I’ve missed something and if I have, please let me know!