A person with Crohn’s disease may choose to avoid certain foods and drinks that can trigger or worsen a flare-up. Foods to avoid may include high fiber foods, spicy foods, some dairy products, and more.
People living with Crohn’s disease are subject to flare-ups. These are periods of inflammation. During these times, a person experiences diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramping when they eat.
As a result, healthcare professionals may often recommend that a person take a different dietary approach during a flare-up than in times when they are not experiencing a flare.
The following article describes in more detail some dietary approaches for those experiencing a Crohn’s disease flare-up, as well as suggestions for a typical daily diet.
Beverages to avoid during a Crohn’s flare-up include drinks that are:
- alcoholic drinks, such as wine, beer, hard liquor, and cocktails
- caffeinated drinks, including coffee, tea, energy drinks
- carbonated, including soda and seltzer
- highly sweetened, such as those sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, or sugar alcohols
Very sugary drinks can worsen diarrhea.
Caffeine stimulates the bowels and worsens diarrhea as well. If a person typically consumes caffeine, they may wish to try switching some of their usual caffeinated products to decaffeinated ones. This may help reduce caffeine consumption with a lower risk of withdrawal symptoms.
Bread and starches
During a flare-up, doctors and dietitians typically recommend eating a low fiber diet. This means a person should avoid the following foods:
- brown or purple rice
- wild rice
- cereals containing nuts, dried fruit, or seeds
- whole grains, such as quinoa, barley, and farro
- whole grain bread, crackers, bran cereal, and pasta
- old fashioned and steel-cut oats
A person should avoid dairy products that may contain added sources of fiber. Examples can include:
- cheeses that contain nuts or seeds
- yogurts that contain fruit skins, such as whole blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and strawberries
Eating other dairy foods in moderation can be helpful during a flare-up by providing calcium and live active cultures.
However, regardless of how much fiber it contains, dairy may worsen symptoms during a flare-up, especially if a person is also lactose intolerant. A person who chooses to eat dairy may want to select lower fat options because they may find higher fat dairy more difficult to digest.
Some fat sources may contain fiber or are naturally high in fiber. Most experts recommend avoiding these and foods that are high in fat. Examples to avoid include:
- salad dressings with poppy seeds
- high fat foods such as butter, margarine, or any deep-fried food items
Experts recommend avoiding raw fruit and fruit juices with pulp during a Crohn’s flare. Other examples include:
- fruits with pulp
- dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, and figs
- prune juice
- raw fruit, except ripe bananas, melons, and apples with the skin removed
- raw fruit juice
High fat and high fiber protein sources can cause gas and irritate the intestinal lining. Proteins to avoid during a flare-up include:
- beans and lentils
- fried eggs
- fried meat
- high fat lunch meats, such as salami
- chunky nut butter with seeds (eating smooth nut butter on white toast is actually recommended during a flare)
- tough or chewy cuts of meat
Sweets and desserts
A doctor may recommend avoiding sweets while on a flare-up diet. Examples include:
- foods containing bran, such as muffins
- any sweets, such as cookies, candy, cakes, pastries
- fruit juice with added sugar
- dried fruit
A person should also avoid foods that are made with sugar alcohols, as these can cause gas in some people. Examples include mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol.
Vegetables to avoid on a flare-up diet include:
- Brussel sprouts
- lima beans
- potato skins
- winter squash
Some of these foods are not necessarily high in fiber, such as onions, but are known to irritate the stomach of a person with Crohn’s disease.
Too much inflammation in the gut leads to symptoms of a Crohn’s flare-up.
Many doctors recommend eating a low residue diet. This is similar to a low fiber diet but also limits other foods that reduce the amount of solid waste in a person’s stool.
A low residue diet helps the bowel rest and recover because the intestinal tract does not have to work as hard to digest foods.
This diet is best during periods of inflammation. People living with Crohn’s disease should otherwise aim to eat a balanced diet with adequate amounts of fiber. A diet containing fiber can help restore gut microbiome diversity, which
Beverages that a person can enjoy when experiencing a Crohn’s flare-up include:
- decaffeinated drinks, such as decaffeinated tea or coffee
- low sugar rehydration drinks
- herbal tea
Bread and starches
Low fiber bread and cereal options will stimulate the bowels the least. Examples include:
- bread made with white, refined, or all-purpose flour
- refined cereals (cooked or dry), such as grits or puffed rice
- white rice
- potatoes without the skin
As a general rule, if a food has more than 2 grams of fiber per serving, it is not a good option for a flare-up diet.
Some people with the condition find that dairy products worsen their symptoms. If this is not the case, a person can eat 2 servings or fewer of the following:
- cottage cheese
- yogurt with live active cultures
Fruits that people can eat during a flare-up include:
- canned fruit, except for cherries or berries
- peeled apples or applesauce, as peeling removes some of the fiber
- pulp-free fruit juices
- ripe bananas
- ripe melons
Many protein sources are OK to eat during a flare-up, as long as a person cooks them so that they are tender and easy to cut with a fork.
Examples of these foods include:
- eggs, cooked where the yolk is solid
- smooth nut butter that does not contain seeds
- soy products
- protein shakes
- protein supplements
A person should speak with their doctor to determine how to meet their protein needs.
Examples of vegetables to eat on a low residue diet include:
- canned vegetables that do not have seeds
- well-cooked vegetables, such as seed-free squash and green beans
- pulp-free vegetable juice
A person can also remove skins from vegetables to cut down their fiber content.
When a person is not going through a flare-up, switching to a high fiber diet may help with Crohn’s disease. This diet promotes digestive regularity, gut microbiome diversity, and good health.
There is no single food or food group that doctors link with every instance of Crohn’s disease. Different foods might irritate the gut and contribute to inflammation in different people.
Doctors often recommend that people with Crohn’s disease keep a food journal of everything they eat and in what amounts. A person can list the symptoms — if any — they experience after eating certain foods.
Common foods that may worsen symptoms include spicy foods, dairy products, alcohol, and high fiber grains. However, these are not triggers for all people with Crohn’s disease.
Additional considerations and diet tips for a person with Crohn’s include:
- eating several small meals each day instead of large ones to reduce reflux and gas
- drinking plenty of water throughout the day to help digestion
- adding fiber sources slowly and drinking plenty of water to help the body adjust
Some of the foods a person eats on a flare-up diet may not have the same nutrition profile as their typical diet does. As a result, a doctor may recommend taking vitamins, such as folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
Some people with Crohn’s may also take the medication methotrexate, which
A person should also ask their doctor if there are any specific recommendations they should follow regarding their diet.
Is there a Crohn’s disease diet plan?
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends certain foods that a person should eat and avoid if they are living with an inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD). During a flare-up, a low residue or low fiber diet plan may be more beneficial.
Where can a person find Crohn’s disease diet recipes?
Many cookbooks focus on recipes for people living with Crohn’s disease and IBD. A person can find some at a local bookstore or online.
Should a person with Crohn’s disease eat gluten-free?
There is not enough research to suggest that eating gluten-free could improve Crohn’s disease symptoms, according to a
What foods make Crohn’s disease worse?
Foods that can make Crohn’s disease symptoms worse during a flare-up can include sweetened foods and drinks, drinks containing caffeine, and foods, including fruits and vegetables, that are high in fiber. But outside of a flare-up, eating high fiber foods may have benefits for Crohn’s disease.
What fruits should you avoid with Crohn’s disease?
During a flare-up, experts recommend that a person with Crohn’s disease avoid fruits that are sweetened, dried, or high in fiber. This can include berries, prunes, and fruits with pulp, among others.
Crohn’s flare-ups can make a person need to change their diet to include low fiber options. But this is only a temporary approach until the flare has passed.
A person can identify individual dietary triggers that may worsen Crohn’s symptoms and work with their doctor or nutritionist, if one is available to them, to develop a healthful eating plan.