Eating certain foods can sometimes help relieve the symptoms of a Crohn’s flare-up. Refined grains, low fiber fruits, lean proteins, and yogurt are some options.
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 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.
A Crohn’s flare-up can trigger or
An ongoing loss of appetite and diarrhea can lead to dehydration and malnutrition.
The rest of this article will explore how certain foods and drinks affect Crohn’s symptoms.
Studies suggest certain insoluble fibers can worsen IBD symptoms. As refined grains have less insoluble fiber than whole grains, they tend to pass more quickly and easily through the digestive tract and are less likely to cause inflammation.
Examples of refined grains include:
- white bread
- white rice
- plain crackers
- rice snacks
Low fiber fruits are easy on the digestive system while containing various nutrients.
- honeydew melon
The amount of fiber in a piece of fruit changes as it ripens. Ripe fruits generally have less fiber than unripe fruits.
Removing the skin or peel from a piece of fruit can reduce the amount of insoluble fibers it contains, such as lignin and cellulose.
Poaching and preserving fruit can also decrease the amount of fiber. Generally, the more processing fruit goes through, the easier it is for the body to digest. Canned and cooked fruits are often low in fiber. However, they can contain high amounts of sugar.
While these fruit preparations can make them easier for the gut to tolerate, people experiencing a Crohn’s flare should still only eat them in moderation, as excess consumption may trigger symptoms.
Many vegetables are high in fiber. However, as with fruit, peeling them removes a layer of insoluble fiber.
Cooking vegetables makes them easier to digest and reduces their fiber content.
People should limit the use of oil or butter when roasting or frying vegetables because fats can irritate the digestive system and worsen symptoms of Crohn’s. People may wish to try boiling or steaming them instead.
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 many IBDs, including Crohn’s. 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.
Learn more about lean protein options.
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 excess visible 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.
Eggs are excellent sources of lean protein. Egg yolks also contain high amounts of vitamins A and D, of which people with Crohn’s
In addition to lean protein, soy products such as tofu
Not all fats have a negative effect on people with IBDs. Oily fish contain healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. These combat 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.
To keep fat levels as low as possible, people can grill the fish or bake them with small amounts of vegetable oil.
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
Learn more about the difference between Crohn’s and lactose intolerance.
Still drinks can help people to stay hydrated and increase their nutritional intake without irritating the stomach.
Many vegetable and fruit juices are low in fiber while retaining high levels of vitamins and minerals. Manufacturers may fortify some products with additional nutrients.
Although it is best to avoid 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 can also help the gut absorb iron.
Discover more about the different health benefits of juices.
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.
Drinking green tea may benefit people with Crohn’s.
Green tea is also a healthy alternative to coffee and sugary drinks, which may aggravate Crohn’s symptoms. However, green tea does contain caffeine, so people with caffeine sensitivity will benefit from choosing decaffeinated products.
Some foods can trigger or worsen Crohn’s symptoms. Examples include:
- whole grains
- fruits and vegetables with skins and seeds
- cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower
- fatty red meat
- saturated fats, such as those in butter, coconut oil, and margarine
- salty foods, including processed foods and ready meals
- spicy foods
- carbonated drinks, such as soda
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, healthful diet. It may be best to speak with a doctor or dietitian before making any significant dietary changes.