A formal Crohn’s diet doesn’t exist per se. Foods that aggravate symptoms in one person may have no effect on another. Learning which foods can or cannot be incorporated into a person’s diet takes time and is a matter of trial and error. A dietician can help develop a Crohn’s diet that is customized to help keep inflammation to a minimum. Keeping a food diary will help determine, over time, which foods provoke and aggravate symptoms in the susceptible individual.
People living with Crohn’s often have difficulty absorbing nutrients from their digestive tract. The body’s ability to digest and absorb food is compromised by diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. Doctors may suggest multivitamins or dietary supplements to help complement a limited diet. While such supplements help make up for nutritional deficiencies, they cannot actually replace food.
In cases where complications prevent the ingestion of solid food, liquid nutrient formulas may form a large part of the Crohn’s diet. Tube feeding is also used in certain cases, when symptoms and complications make normal food consumption impossible.
Hyperalimentation, the intravenous injection of sugars, protein and other nutrients through a catheter placed in the vena cava (a vein that leads to the heart), may be used for long-term support. Like the symptoms of Crohn’s, diets vary widely among individuals.
Foods to Avoid on a Crohn’s Diet
Different people find different foods aggravate their condition. While food tolerances vary widely, the following are common triggers or Crohn’s symptoms:
- milk products
- fatty foods
- popcorn, nuts and other “hard” foods that appear to contribute to intestinal blockage
- monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Healthy Eating Tips
Here are some common strategies for eating well in spite of Crohn’s disease. Remember to listen to your own body. Learn to spot the signs of malnutrition or dehydration early.
- Eat smaller meals every three to four hours if large meals make symptoms worse.
- Eat when you’re hungry. Your body will be better prepared to digest the food.
- Take small bites and chew thoroughly; digestion starts in the mouth, when saliva begins the process of breaking down food.
- Drink fluids with your meals and throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
- Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with foods you know you can eat safely.
Dehydration and Electrolytes
Diarrhea and inflammation both lead to fluid loss. It doesn’t take long for the human body to become dehydrated; so adequate fluid intake is essential, especially in a Crohn’s diet. Drinking small amounts of fluid frequently helps many people stay hydrated.
A light-headed feeling, dizziness, and weakness are signs of dehydration. Dark, concentrated urine is also a sign that the body needs more fluids.
More than just fluid is lost when your body gets dehydrated. Electrolytes â€” substances necessary for the body to send electrical signals through body fluid â€” are also lost. Electrolytes help maintain the electrical balance and transfer of water among body cells. Commercial drinks are available to help replenish the body’s levels of electrolytes. Chronic diarrhea can also result in electrolyte loss, so electrolyte drinks for many may be a natural component of their Crohn’s diet.
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Carson-Dewitt, R.S. (2002, December). Crohn’s disease. Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine.
National Library of Medicine. (nd). Crohn’s disease. MedlinePlus Tutorial.