Dietary Advice To Prevent Crohn's Disease Flare-Ups

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease. It causes excessive inflammation throughout a patient's digestive tract. Flare-ups of the condition can be debilitating. Some patients may also experience potentially life-threatening complications. It is common for flare-ups to be triggered by eating certain foods, and a poor diet can make existing symptoms worse. 

Many individuals will take anti-inflammatory medication for Crohn's disease. Perhaps the most common is corticosteroids for Crohn's disease. Patients may also need several other medications to treat this condition. Vitamin B12 shots for Crohn's disease are common, since patients are at risk of deficiency. Surgery for Crohn's disease may also occur. However, there are also natural remedies for Crohn's disease. Specifically, patients should design a Crohn's disease diet to prevent flare-ups.

Avoid Whole Wheat

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Experts recommend that Crohn's disease patients avoid whole wheat bread and other whole wheat products. One of the major reasons that whole grains are recommended as part of a healthy diet is because they have fiber, which helps regulate the digestive tract. However, foods that are high in fiber pose a problem for Crohn's disease patients. Whole wheat contains a great deal of insoluble fiber, which passes intact through the digestive system rather than being broken down. This can lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain, particularly with Crohn's disease.

Gluten intolerance can also add to this reaction. Individuals must avoid eating bread and pasta made with whole wheat, as well as barley and rye-based products. Alternative grains include rice, rice-based pasta, gluten-free bread, oatmeal, potatoes, and cornmeal.

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Eat Low-Fiber Fruit And Vegetables

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Fruits and vegetables are often considered the staple of a healthy diet. However, Crohn's disease can make eating them difficult. As with whole grains, the amount of fiber in fruits and vegetables can lead to diarrhea and flare-ups. Patients can still gain many of the nutritional benefits of vegetables and fruits by being careful about which ones they eat. Rather than cutting these foods out of their diet completely, experts recommend eating low-fiber fruit. Some of the fruits to avoid include cherries, plums, peaches, and unpeeled apples. Crohn's disease patients should also avoid vegetables like artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. 

They can eat applesauce to eliminate much of the digestive process involved in breaking down apples. Bananas, pumpkins, cantaloupes, and squash also tend to be easy for the intestines to digest. When individuals with Crohn's disease eat vegetables, it is best to steam them or otherwise cook them well beforehand. This helps break down most of the non-digestible fiber before it can enter their digestive system. Bell peppers and well-peeled cucumbers are also often safe to eat. However, a cucumber's peel might irritate the digestive tract.

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Eat Smaller Meals More Frequently

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Rather than eating three large meals a day, experts recommend that individuals with Crohn's disease eat smaller meals more frequently. The size of a meal can make as big a difference as the actual nutritional content in the food. If an individual's portions are too big, they are more likely to experience intestinal distress. Experts recommend having five set times to eat every day: a small breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus two snack times. Each snack time should be about halfway through breakfast and lunch, and then halfway through lunch and dinner. 

When portioning out food, individuals do not necessarily need to use a measuring cup. They can use their fist for comparison. An ideal meal should be around the size of a fist. In addition to preventing flare-ups, eating small meals can reduce the frequency and seriousness of intestinal cramping. When patients start doing this, they should keep a food diary. This diary should record what they ate, when they ate, and if any symptoms occurred. Patients can discuss this food diary with their doctor to see if they can identify specific trigger foods.

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Limit Dairy Consumption

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Even if individuals had no problem with dairy products being diagnosed with Crohn's disease, they should still limit dairy consumption. Many individuals cannot digest dairy products fully to begin with, and consuming non-digestible foods is a classic Crohn's disease trigger. The level of potential dairy intolerance will vary widely from patient to patient. Some individuals might not experience any symptoms if they have a slice of cheesecake or glass of milk, while others may be incapacitated.

Lactose intolerance occurs in a high portion of Crohn's disease patients. If an individual's body cannot break down lactose, they will experience diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain. In addition, the high-fat content in dairy products can make them hard to digest. Dairy products to limit include milk, cream, butter, and margarine. Individuals can use substitutes for many of these products. Milk and cheese alternative are often made from coconut, hemp, flax, almond, and soy. Low-fat dairy products, such as low-fat cheese and skim milk, are also an option.

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Eat Lean Meat

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Protein is vital to any diet, as it helps regulate muscle growth and increase energy levels. However, individuals with Crohn's disease need to be careful about what protein they consume. Many meat options have components that can lead to flare-ups. Red meat, dark poultry meat, and sausages are all high in fat, making them difficult to digest. 

Instead, better alternatives are to pick low-fat proteins and eat lean meat. Seafood like shellfish and fish tends to be low in fat. Individuals can also eat the white meat of turkey, chicken, and other poultry. Pork tenderloin is an option for individuals who want more full-bodied meat. There are ways to get protein from non-meat sources as well. Eggs and peanut butter are two of the most popular options. Soy products and tofu can also be used.

Katherine MacAulay