Eating a diet composed of wholesome organic foods, including fruits and vegetables, moderate amounts of protein, healthy fats and raw dairy, while avoiding processed foods is the first step to preventing inflammation that can lead to Crohn’s disease and other health problems. However, if you already have this illness, you need to make special modifications to your diet, as certain foods and beverages (some of them considered beneficial for healthy individuals) can exacerbate your symptoms.
Low-Residue Diet for Crohn’s Disease
You may be advised by your physician to follow a low-residue diet,1 which is tailored to put less strain on your digestive tract. Similar to a low-fiber diet, the low-residue diet takes it a notch higher as it excludes foods that make up the bulk of stools. A low-residue diet leads to less frequent and smaller bowel movements and will help eliminate or ease symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and stomach cramps.2 Some foods you need to avoid by following this diet include:3,4
• Dairy. The damage inflicted by IBD on your digestion can cause lactose intolerance. In this case, dairy products can become hard on your digestion, and worsen symptoms like diarrhea, gas and abdominal pain.
• High-fiber foods. Fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables may be problematic for some patients, as it can aggravate diarrhea and abdominal pain. High-risk fiber-rich foods include vegetables from the cabbage family, like broccoli and cauliflower, as well as corn and popcorn and whole grains.
• Fried foods. The greasiness and added trans fat (from vegetable oils) may strain your digestion.
• Nuts and seeds. Although these are beneficial for healthy people, those with impaired digestion due to IBD may have difficulty masticating them to a consistency that can be passed through your gut easily. Nuts and seeds can also irritate the lining of your gut.
• Tomatoes. The acidity of the tomatoes may worsen Crohn's disease symptoms. Some people find it difficult to tolerate tomato-based products as well.
Whole coconut, dried fruits and berries, deli meats, spicy foods, alcohol and caffeinated beverages are other problem foods that can worsen Crohn’s disease symptoms, so be careful when eating them.
Keep a Food Diary
To help you keep track of which foods worsen your symptoms, keep a food diary. Jot down what you eat every day, and observe which food/s trigger flare-ups and which ones do not pose any harm. In addition, you should:
• Eat small meals throughout the day instead of fewer large ones
• Drink plenty of pure water
• Consider taking a multivitamin supplement (as Crohn's can interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients)
If you’re losing weight or your diet has already become very limited, you can consult a dietitian to help you come up with a meal plan that will be safe for your digestion, but will allow you to get enough nutrients and stay healthy.