Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Food
Dietary Strategies to Help Manage and Reduce IBD Symptoms
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not caused, nor can it be cured, by what you eat. Doctors and dietitians agree, however, that food may play some role in the underlying inflammatory process that causes IBD symptoms.
Certain foods may aggravate symptoms, while others may calm them and promote healing. Therefore, paying attention to what you eat and how your body responds to different foods is an important component of a total treatment plan for IBD.
A diet plan can supplement but should never replace medical treatment for IBD. Always take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
IBD and Malnutrition
Inflammatory bowel disease is often associated with malnutrition due to:
- Poor digestion
- Malabsorption of nutrients including protein, fat, carbohydrates, water, vitamins and minerals
- Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss
- Increased caloric needs of the body, especially during disease flares. More nutrient dense foods need to be consumed, which can be difficult when symptoms are active.
Malnourishment and weight loss in women and girls can impact hormone levels and result in menstrual changes or missed periods. In children and teenagers, it can slow their growth and development.
Creating a Customized Diet Plan
Patients should talk to a doctor or dietitian to create a well-balanced diet customized for them based on the disease they have (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis); the location and extent of their disease; and whether their disease is active or in remission.
The dietary recommendations listed here are intended to provide some very general guidelines only. There is no single eating plan that works for everyone with IBD and an ongoing collaboration with a licensed dietitian or your doctor is recommended.
Dietary Recommendations during Remission
Even when your symptoms are inactive, it is very important to eat a balanced diet with lots of variety. IBD medications tend to be more effective in well-nourished individuals, so try to include the following in your diet every day:
- 8-10 glasses of water
- High fiber carbohydrates (oat bran, legumes, barley)
- Proteins like lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, poultry and soy
- Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, olive oil and canola oil
- Skinless, seedless, dark-colored fruits and vegetables
- Vitamin and mineral supplements as recommended by your doctor
- Low fat dairy products or dairy substitute if lactose intolerant
Dietary Recommendations When Symptoms are Present
Although what you eat will not completely resolve most IBD symptoms, eating or not eating certain foods can often help to minimize them and ease discomfort. It is also advisable to eat smaller portions, more frequently.AVOID:
- Trigger foods that have caused problems in the past*
- High fiber foods like beans
- Nuts, seeds and popcorn
- High fat foods
- Caffeine and alcohol
- Spicy foods
- Raw fruits and vegetables
*Many people find that it is helpful to keep a food journal to track their body’s response to certain foods. This can help to identify “trigger” foods to avoid. However, you should always talk to your doctor before totally eliminating any foods or food groups from your diet as this can lead to nutritional deficiencies.INCLUDE:
- Fruit juices
- Applesauce and bananas
- Bland, soft foods
- Plain cereals, white rice and refined pastas
- Fully cooked, skinless vegetables
- Nutritional supplements as recommended by your doctor or dietitian
- Lean proteins if tolerated