Relishing good food is one of the greatest pleasures. But, for people with Crohn’s disease, it is indeed a difficult task to find out what are the best foods that help them to fuel their body. On one hand, certain kind of food can worsen symptoms, especially during the flare, while the right diet regimen can support medication work effectively, lessen symptoms, heal the intestinal tract and also build a robust immune system. There’s no cure-all diet plan, hence, it is essential to identify food triggers and plan a nutritious diet which helps in improving the function of the gastrointestinal tract and overall health.
What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), where the small intestine is inflamed making it difficult to digest and absorb vital nutrients from food. This condition is triggered when the immune system’s white blood cells attack the body’s healthy cells and tissue. This leads to inflammation, ulceration and tissue swelling that may hinder the intestine’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients and expel waste. Severe abdominal cramp, diarrhea, weight loss and deficiency of vital nutrients like iron, B12 or folic acid are some of the symptoms associated with Crohn's disease.
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How Crohn’s Disease Affect Nutrition?
The small and large intestines each have a specific functions to perform. Food passes via the small intestine first, where vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are absorbed. Leftover food reaches the large intestine (colon) where it pulls up the excess water and salt from the waste before converting it to faeces. However, with Crohn's disease, the gastrointestinal tract is unable to perform the regular functions, which leads to both macro and micronutrient deficiencies. As a result, incompletely digested food travels on to the colon resulting in frequent episodes of diarrhea.
So, even if you are eating a well-balanced diet during a Crohn’s flare-up, the whole lot of essential nutrients is literally wasted. However, it’s possible to design an effective diet plan that lowers the symptoms and help you preserve nutrients to carry through the rough patches.
What To Eat During Remission?
There is no single diet plan for managing Crohn’s disease because the symptoms and condition manifest in several ways. Generally, it is best to avoid processed food which triggers gut inflammation and plan a diet regimen comprising of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins, fats and nuts. Nurturing the body during the remission phase will help you to maintain good health status and manage flares and other surgical procedures.
Foods To Include
Dietary fibre is packed with prebiotic which support to enhance the balance of good bacteria in the gut. Several studies have disclosed that consuming fibre-rich foods when you are not in a flare can actually help you maintain in remission longer. Include whole grains cereals like wheat, bread, oats, barley, beans and nuts.
Add on lean meats such as fish, eggs, nuts, nut butter and tofu to meet your protein needs, while it is best to stay away from processed and high-fat red meats.
Fruits And Veggies
Go for liberal amounts of fresh fruits and veggies to meet your daily dose of vital nutrients. Aim for at least 5-6 servings daily, try to eat a rainbow of colours to balance the nutrients.
Focus on broccoli, greens, beans, oranges, almonds, nuts and dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant, then opt of lactose-free foods such as almond milk, rice milk or soymilk.
What To Eat During a Flare?
In Crohn’s disease, it is hard to discover food triggers and experiencing flare is highly individualised. Hence, it is important to maintain a food diary to track what you eat, how you feel afterwards, whether symptoms worsen and also assess total well-being during the course of the disease.
Foods To Avoid:
Greasy and deep-fried foods
Butter, margarine, mayonnaise
Gas-producing foods like beans, cabbage, broccoli, carbonated drinks etc,
High sugary foods like pastries, candy, artificial sweetener and sugar alcohols
Insoluble fibre rich in pectin such as fruits with skin, seeds and raw green vegetables, whole grains and nuts
Remember to peel, de-seed and cook fibre rich foods
Foods To Be Added During Flare
Refined cereals such as white rice, noodles, pasta and gluten-free bread
Lean protein like skinned chicken, eggs, fish and tofu
Low- fibre fruits like banana, cantaloupe, peeled peaches and cooked fruits like applesauce
Cooked skinless, seedless, non-cruciferous veggies like carrots, squash and potatoes.
Yogurt, smoothies, protein shakes, canned fruit without sugar and well-pureed vegetable soups are great options. Remember to take it slowly at a time by having a little and waiting for a day or two to see if symptoms develop.
Nutritional supplements and energy drinks assist in a great way to meet the nutritional demands and getting enough calories. These supplement powders are easy on the tummy and also improve the small intestines ability to absorb nutrients.
Multivitamin supplements are suggested for people with Crohn’s disease to minimise nutritional deficiency. In addition, when the diet is restricted during flare-ups, a multivitamin with minerals may assist in replenishing nutrients. It is always best to seek advice from the healthcare provider before taking any supplements, so as to prevent over dosing and drug interactions.