Eating certain foods can sometimes help relieve the symptoms of a Crohn’s flare-up. Options include refined grains, low fiber fruits, lean proteins, and yogurt.
Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition that causes inflammation and irritation along parts of the digestive tract. Like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
During a flare-up, a person may benefit from eating soft, bland, sufficiently nutritious foods. It may also be best to avoid foods that trigger inflammation.
In this article, we describe the symptoms of a Crohn’s disease flare-up and explain the best foods to eat during one. We also look at which foods it is best to avoid during a flare-up.
During a Crohn’s flare-up, a doctor may recommend a person follow a low residue diet. This can help the bowels rest.
If a flare-up is severe, a doctor may recommend a liquid diet, a feeding tube, or intravenous (IV) nutrition.
The rest of this article will explore how certain foods and drinks affect Crohn’s symptoms during a flare-up.
Studies suggest certain insoluble fibers can worsen IBD symptoms during a flare-up because they are more difficult to digest. As refined grains have less insoluble fiber than whole grains, they tend to pass more quickly and easily through the digestive tract.
Examples of refined grains include:
Low fiber fruits are easy on the digestive system while containing various nutrients.
The amount of fiber in a piece of fruit changes as it ripens. Ripe fruits
Removing the skin or peel from a piece of fruit
Cooking fruits can soften them, making them easier to digest. Canned fruits are a convenient fruit option for people experiencing a Crohn’s flare. However, they can also contain large amounts of added sugar. To reduce added sugar intake, people can choose fruits canned in juice instead of syrup.
While these preparations can make it easier for the gut to tolerate fruit, people experiencing a Crohn’s flare should still eat them only in moderation, as excess consumption may trigger symptoms.
Cooking vegetables makes them easier to digest.
Protein is a critical part of a balanced diet and essential for overall health. However, many animal protein sources are also high in dietary fats.
A high intake of animal fats is a risk factor for developing IBD. Consuming high levels of dietary fat can also worsen existing IBD symptoms.
Prioritizing lean protein sources can help a person maintain adequate nutrition while minimizing the risk of IBD symptoms.
Skinless chicken and turkey are good examples of lean meats. When purchasing red meat, such as pork, it is best to select the leanest cut available and trim any visible excess fat.
Experts recommend that people experiencing a Crohn’s flare-up cook proteins to a soft texture and avoid tough or chewy meat cuts. Doing so can reduce the burden these foods place on the digestive process.
In addition to lean protein, soy products such as tofu
Not all fats have a negative effect on people with IBD. Oily fish contain healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. These fight inflammation and may help
Health experts often recommend eating at least two servings of oily fish per week. These include trout, salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines.
Many yogurts contain probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that may help reduce inflammation in the gut. However,
Other dairy products, such as milk and cheese, can be rich in calcium. Manufacturers may also fortify them with vitamin A.
However, many contain lactose, a type of sugar. Some doctors
Still drinks can help people stay hydrated and increase their nutritional intake without irritating the stomach.
Many vegetable and fruit juices are low in fiber and contain high levels of vitamins and minerals. Manufacturers may fortify some products with additional nutrients.
Although it is best to avoid consuming too much sugar during a Crohn’s flare-up, a daily glass of diluted fruit juice that contains no added sugar can help boost a person’s nutrient intake as part of a varied diet.
Vitamin C from fruit juice
Protein shakes and meal replacements
Sometimes people cannot tolerate any solid foods during a Crohn’s flare. In these cases, doctors may recommend following a liquid diet.
Protein shakes are the best way to maximize calories and protein on a liquid diet. Choosing a protein shake that is low in added sugars is important.
Some foods can trigger symptoms during a Crohn’s flare. Examples include:
- whole grains
- fruits and vegetables with skins and seeds
- cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower
- high fat foods, such as french fries, heavy cream, and bacon
- spicy foods
- caffeine, including in coffee and tea
- carbonated drinks, such as soda
However, keep in mind that trigger foods are different for each person. It may be helpful for a person to track their food and symptoms to see which foods trigger symptoms. A registered dietitian can also help a person determine which foods to avoid.
When people are in remission from Crohn’s disease, doctors typically recommend that they follow a nutritious, balanced diet that
- whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and others
- vegetables, including cruciferous vegetables
- fruit, including skin and seeds
These foods contain dietary fiber, which, in addition to bulking up stool, helps support the health of a person’s gut microbiome. They can also reduce inflammation and support overall health.
People may have different fiber intake needs and foods to avoid, depending on their triggers. A doctor or dietitian can help determine a nutritious diet during remission from Crohn’s disease.
Flare-ups of Crohn’s can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. If symptoms persist, they can lead to malnutrition and dehydration.
During a flare-up, it is best to drink plenty of fluids and avoid foods that aggravate symptoms. Eating foods that are easy to digest and rich in nutrients can help ease symptoms and promote healing.
During remission, it is important to eat a balanced, nutritious diet. It may be best to speak with a doctor or dietitian before making any significant dietary changes.