Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can cause inflammation in any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, but it most commonly affects the intestines.
There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease, but the condition can go into remission. During remission, a person experiences very few symptoms, if any.
Periods of remission alternate with flare-ups, during which symptoms start to occur again. The goal of treatment is to minimize flare-ups and keep the condition in remission for as long as possible.
There are many treatments options for Crohn’s disease. The condition affects each body differently, and the right combination of medications and dietary changes tends to vary from person to person. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.
For most people with Crohn’s disease, dietary changes are a major part of treatment. Read on for information about how snacking fits into life with Crohn’s disease.
Many people with Crohn’s disease find that they may feel better or worse after eating certain foods.
At the same time, Crohn’s disease can affect a person’s ability to get sufficient nutrients by interfering with their nutrient absorption and by causing them to limit their diet in order to reduce their symptoms.
For this reason, it is important for people to make the right dietary changes that will help reduce flare-ups while also maintaining their nutritional needs.
Since Crohn’s disease can impact every person differently, a person should speak with a doctor about the best diet for them.
In general, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends following the guidelines below.
When Crohn’s disease symptoms are in remission, it is important to eat a nutrient-rich diet, which should include:
- Fiber: However, high fiber diets are not suitable for some people with Crohn’s disease.
- Protein: It may be best to stick with sources of lean protein, such as fish, eggs, nuts, and tofu.
- Calcium: Choose lactose-free products if dairy is a trigger, and be sure to include leafy green vegetables as another source of calcium.
- Probiotics: These are present in sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi, for example.
- Fruits and vegetables: It may be beneficial to remove peels and seeds.
A doctor can provide advice about how much fiber to include in the diet.
As always, it is essential to stay hydrated and include as much variety in the diet as possible so that the body can absorb the full range of nutrients.
During a flare-up
Certain foods and beverages may be more likely to trigger flare-ups and aggravate existing symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
These triggers are different for everyone, but they tend to include:
- dairy, particularly its lactose
- sugary foods
- high fat foods
- spicy foods
- sugar alternatives, including sorbitol and sugar alcohols
- carbonated beverages
A doctor or nutritionist may recommend an elimination diet. This involves removing all common triggers from the diet, then slowly reintroducing them one by one to see whether any worsen or prompt Crohn’s disease symptoms.
It is important to follow an elimination diet under the supervision of a healthcare professional to ensure that the diet still includes the right balance of nutrients.
Learn more about what to eat during Crohn’s disease flare-ups here.
When someone has Crohn’s disease, they need to think carefully about all of the food they eat each day, including snacks.
Most people with Crohn’s disease find that eating four to six small meals frequently throughout the day is better than eating three large meals. So, it may be best to aim for a small meal every 2–3 hours. In many cases, this can include snacks.
However, finding a snack that a person with Crohn’s disease can eat may be hard. When people experience remission, they may resort to eating high fat, high sugar snacks that can help them have enough energy to get through the next flare-up.
That said, eating such snacks can result in weight gain that may interfere with a person’s ability to recover well from a flare-up. In fact, many people with Crohn’s disease frequently gain and lose weight.
Planning one’s meals and snacks ahead of time can help reduce this fluctuation and encourage a healthier energy intake throughout the day.
Below are five snack recipes for people with Crohn’s disease.
Peanut butter banana smoothie
- 1 frozen banana
- 1–2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1 cup of milk or an alternative, such as soy milk
- Add the frozen banana, the peanut butter, and a few splashes of milk to a blender.
- Blend the mixture until smooth.
- Add more milk to thin the smoothie, as desired.
For a different flavor, substitute other frozen fruits or add Greek yogurt instead of peanut butter. Greek yogurt contains double the protein of regular yogurt. In the summer, try frozen tropical fruits and coconut milk.
A cup of soup
- 4 cups of low sodium broth, such as vegetable or chicken
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 2–3 cups of diced vegetables, which may be frozen
- Add the broth, diced tomatoes, and vegetables to a saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender and cooked through. This should take around 10–15 minutes.
Try adding a can of beans or 1 cup of barley, lentils, or cooked, shredded chicken for a little variety and to add protein.
- 1 avocado
- 1 small tomato
- one-quarter of an onion
- a handful of cilantro
- 1 lime
- whole grain tortilla chips or butter lettuce
- Mash the avocado with a fork.
- Chop the tomato, onion, and cilantro, and add these to the mashed avocado.
- Add the juice of the lime, and mix everything together.
- Serve the mixture with whole grain tortilla chips or scoop it into butter lettuce cups.
Spread the guacamole on a slice of toast for a delicious and filling breakfast.
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- half a cup of peanut or almond butter
- one-third of a cup of honey
- half a cup of ground flaxseed
- one-third of a cup of chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, or a mixture of all three
- Mix the oats, nut butter, honey, and flaxseed.
- Add the chocolate chips, raisins, and nuts, as desired.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Take a small spoonful of the mixture and roll it into a ball.
- Continue with the rest of the mixture, and place the balls on the baking sheet.
- Put the energy balls in the fridge or freezer to allow them to set.
- slices of deli turkey
- low fat or lactose-free cheese
- butter lettuce
- Place a slice of low sodium deli turkey on a plate.
- Place a slice of cheese on top.
- Add a slice of butter lettuce and a thin slice of tomato.
- Roll this up, and place it with the seam toward the plate.
Try adding a few sliced pickles or switching up the ingredients for variety. To make a faux Reuben, use thinly sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut. Vegan and vegetarian meat and cheese alternatives are also available.
When time is short, a person can give these quick, grab-and-go snacks a try:
- a hard-boiled egg
- a piece of fruit
- low fat cheese with roasted red pepper
- lactose-free or low fat yogurt
- hummus and baby carrots or cucumbers
- a can or pouch of tuna or salmon with crackers or lettuce cups
- a meal replacement drink
- a fruit cup with 100% juice with no added sugar
A person can also ask a doctor or dietitian about other tasty snack ideas that would support their nutritional needs during remission and flare-up periods.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Although there is currently no cure, various treatments and interventions can help control the symptoms.
Making dietary changes is a crucial part of treatment. Carefully planning meals and snacks is important for anyone with Crohn’s disease or another type of IBD.