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7 Diet tips that can help manage Crohn’s symptoms and side effects

Everyone has individual triggers, but watching what you eat can help ease and ward off flare-ups.

Diet doesn’t cause Crohn’s disease—doctors don’t actually know the culprit behind the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—but what you eat (or don’t eat) can majorly impact how your body deals with it. That’s because Crohn’s affects the gastrointestinal tract, the part of the body that digests food, absorbs energy and nutrients, and expels waste.

When Crohn’s is active—as in, you’re currently experiencing symptoms—you may have abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. These symptoms can cause loss of appetite and make it hard to absorb nutrients, which puts you at high risk for malnutrition, explains gastroenterologist Jason Rubinov, MD.

Unfortunately, no diet has been proven to manage or prevent any inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), says Arielle Leben, RD, of NYU Langone’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, but some tweaks, like the ones below, can ward off symptoms and flares, making living with it—and staying healthy—easier.

1. Eat a bunch of little meals.

Consuming a lot of food at once stresses the GI tract and triggers a gastrocolic reflex, contractions in the colon that cause a bowel movement, Leben says. Sometimes for people with Crohn’s, the reflex is accompanied by pain, cramping, or diarrhea. Smaller, more frequent meals won’t stimulate that reflex as intensely.

Eating less in one sitting also gives the body additional time to digest food, which improves nutrient absorption, says Courtney Schuchmann, a registered dietitian at the University of Chicago’s Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Since people with Crohn’s don’t always absorb nutrients very well, this is a big plus.

2. Minimize your insoluble fiber intake.

While all fiber helps the GI tract regulate digestion, insoluble fiber—the kind that keeps things moving—can actually intensify symptoms during flare-ups. “Many patients with Crohn’s disease suffer from strictures, or narrowings within the intestines that develop when chronic inflammation leads to scarring,” explains Rubinov. “As a result, [certain] high-fiber foods have a difficult time moving through these narrowed areas, which can lead to worsening of symptoms and blockages.”

When your Crohn’s is active, cut out foods with insoluble fiber like nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetable skins, and whole grains, which pull water into the gut. As a result, food digests more quickly, which can lead to diarrhea or the worsening of diarrhea. Instead, choose eats with digestion-slowing soluble fiber like oatmeal, skinless potatoes, applesauce, and nut butters. These foods absorb water in the gut, slowing down the digestion of the food that’s stored there, which can help to ward off diarrhea.

3. Choose your fats wisely.

Certain high-fat foods are difficult to digest and may aggravate Crohn’s symptoms, including diarrhea and gas, Rubinov explains. So say no to fried foods, fatty cuts of meat (like steak and ribs), and creamy sauces, which can increase the frequency of bowel movements, says Schuchmann.

Instead, reach for plant-derived fats, such as avocado, nut butters, coconut, and olive oil. A diet rich in these foods actually changed the gut microbial composition in mice enough to reduce inflammation in the small intestine, researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found.

4. Don’t OD on dairy.

“In some cases of Crohn’s, inflammation in the small intestine impairs lactase activity and causes lactose intolerance,” Leben says. Lactose intolerance is another GI disorder with symptoms like cramping, pain, bloating, excess gas, and diarrhea. Dairy products with a high-fat content were most frequently reported to worsen perceived Crohn’s symptoms, one study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported.

Some people with Crohn’s may need to totally avoid high-lactose products, such as milk, cottage cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Still, most should be able to tolerate low-lactose dairy products, such as hard cheeses (like Parmesan and Romano) and lactose-free milk or yogurt, Schuchmann says.

Read the rest of the tips 7 Diet tips that can help manage Crohn’s symptoms and side effects by 

Posted on: February 13 2020

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Crohns & Colitis