5 Crohn’s Diet Nutrition Tips
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis belong to a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These diseases causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the place where digestion and absorption of nutrients take place.
While a crohn’s and ulcerative colitis diet plan is very individual there are some basic guidelines to help you decide how and what to eat, especially when your disease is active:
#1 Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits
Tolerance for vegetables and fruits varies among people with IBD increases by removing the skin and seeds and cooking the vegetables until tender. To ease discomfort during a disease flare, select vegetables and fruits that are easier to digest.
- Honeydew melon
- Cooked fruits
Cooked, seedless, skinless, non-cruciferous vegetables:
- Asparagus tips
- Vegetable stock
#2 Select the right grains
Grains include wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and others. These grains are used to make products such as bread, pasta, oatmeal, and breakfast cereal. In their natural form, grains have three components: bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grain products contain all three. Refined grains have been milled to remove the bran and germ, and they have a finer texture. Grains are important sources of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals (such as iron, magnesium, and selenium). Registered dietitians often recommend eating whole grain products because the process of refining grains removes some of the iron, B vitamins, and fiber. But this is not always advisable for people with IBD because the in- soluble fiber in the bran and germ may increase symptoms, especially during a flare. During a disease flare, foods containing refined grains may cause fewer symptoms and may be easier for you to tolerate.
Recommended refined grains to choose during a flare include:
- Potato bread, sourdough, white bread
- White pasta
- White rice
#3 Include protein-rich foods
Meat, seafood, beans, dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of protein. They also provide B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium, and other nutrients. Most of these foods should be easy to tolerate; however some patients may have issues with nuts and seeds, particularly when flaring or if you have a stricture.
Animal proteins (fish, beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and dairy) contain all the essential amino acids. Plant sources of protein may not contain all amino acids but can be eaten in combination to provide all complete proteins. Other sources of protein include soy-based products, legumes, and grains. Eat a variety of protein sources to ensure that you consume the recommended amount of amino acids. A good list of proteins are:
- Meat, fish, poultry, legumes (beans, peanuts, soy), nuts, eggs, and dairy products.
- Legumes (beans, peanuts, soy)
- Dairy Products
#4 Get enough calcium
Calcium consumption is especially important for people with IBD. To meet your calcium needs without a supplement, aim to eat at least three to four servings of calcium-rich foods daily. Sources of calcium include milk (regular, lactose-free, calcium-fortified almond, or soy), yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified orange juice, canned fish, kale, collard greens, and firm tofu. If you aren’t getting the recommended amount of calcium in your diet, you can ask your doctor or dietitian about adding a calcium supplement.
Group and Age
Daily Calcium Intake
Children (4-8 years)
Children (9-18 years)
Men and Women (19-50 years)
Women (51 years and older)
Men (51-70 years)
Men (71 years and older)
#5 Drink plenty of fluids
Everyone should drink plenty of fluids for good health. Our bodies, which are about 60% water, require a regular intake of water to stay hydrated. Your urine will look clear or light yellow if you are well hydrated. The amount of water to drink depends on several factors, such as physical activity, weather, and health conditions.
- Tomato Juice
- Oral rehydration solutions (4 cups of water, 1⁄2 tsp salt, 6 teaspoons of honey, sugar, or maple syrup. You can add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange.)
- Sugary beverages (juices, sodas, sports drinks). Excess sugar can cause more diarrhea because the sugar pulls water into the gut. Fruit juices and sports drinks used for rehydration and replenishing vitamins and electrolytes may need to be diluted.
- Ice-cold liquids (can cause cramps in some cases)
- Caffeine in coffee, tea, and other beverages can act as a stimulant to “rev” up the bowel. This can increase diarrhea but does not cause inflammation.
- Alcohol dehydrates the body. Drink in moderation and avoid during a flare
Tips for crohn’s nutrition during a flare
If you are experiencing symptoms you may try to:
- Eat smaller meals
- Have more frequent meals
- Eat in a relaxed atmosphere
- Avoid trigger foods
- Reduce the amount of greasy or fried foods
* Healthy fat sources include olive oil, avocado, butter, and oils.
1. Chron’s & Colitis Foundation.
2. Brotherton CS, et al., Avoidance of fiber is associated with greater risk of Crohn’s disease flare in a 6-month period. Clin. Gastro. Hepat. 2016, 14: 1130–1136.
3. Herfarth HH, et al., Prevalence of a gluten free diet and improvement of clinical symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases. Inflamm. Bowel. Dis. 2014, 20: 1194–1197.
4. Aaron BC, et al., Dietary patterns and self-reported associations of diet with symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. Dig.Dis.Sci. 2013, 58: 1322-1328.