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Avoid These Foods If You Have IBD

Avoid These Foods If You Have IBD

Many people have difficulty discerning which foods provide the best fuel and nutritional support for their bodies. But when you have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like Chron’s or colitis, making the right dietary choices can be even more challenging. 

While health and nutrition are still top of mind when you’re living with IBD, so is safety — you want to avoid foods that might trigger a symptom flare-up or increase your risk of developing IBD-related complications like nutritional deficiency, malnutrition, or weight loss. 

Here, board-certified gastroenterologist Dr. Sam Weissman discusses which foods you should avoid if you have IBD (hint: the answer is not the same for everyone), explains what a healthy IBD diet might look like, and offers general dietary advice during symptom flare-ups. 

The effects of intestinal inflammation

Your small intestine further digests food from your stomach to help your body access vitamins, minerals, and other basic nutrients for absorption. In contrast, your large intestine absorbs water and electrolytes and eliminates solid waste. With IBD, these basic gastrointestinal tract functions can be thrown into chaos any time inflammation sets in

Crohn’s disease 

This chronic inflammatory condition can affect any section of your intestinal tract wall, from its surface lining through the wall itself. As inflammation spreads into the intestinal wall, it can trigger abdominal paindiarrhea, malabsorption, intestinal strictures (narrowing) and fistulas (abnormal openings).

Ulcerative colitis 

Colitis is an inflammatory disorder of the colon (large intestine). It affects the innermost lining of the colon and rectum, causing swelling and sores (ulcers) in the digestive tract that leads to abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea (rectal bleeding). 

Besides causing frustrating and disruptive symptoms, an irritated and inflamed intestinal tract makes it harder to digest food fully so you can fuel and nourish your body. 

What foods should I avoid with IBD? 

When you live with IBD, getting proper nutrition can feel like a complex undertaking. Eating the wrong foods can aggravate your condition and trigger your symptoms, but knowing what to eat and what you should avoid eating may seem like an overwhelming task. 

That could be because the extensive “dietary dos and don’ts” for IBD are often confusing or conflicting, causing many people to erroneously believe that they should avoid certain foods or entire food groups outright. That’s not exactly accurate. 

The only reason to avoid specific foods is if they trigger your symptoms or make them worse. 

To pinpoint your specific problem foods, keep a daily, detailed record of everything you eat, taking note of when your symptoms flare-up or worsen so you can start to identify the dietary triggers and patterns you should avoid. 

Are there common IBD food triggers? 

There’s no reason to stay away from a specific food unless it triggers or worsens your IBD symptoms. Because IBD makes it harder for you to get the energy and nutrients your body needs, your overall dietary goal should be to get as many key nutrients from as many different food sources as possible. 

But if you’re still determining which foods spark or exacerbate your IBD flares, it helps to know which foods tend to cause problems for many people. Common IBD dietary triggers include:

Alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods can irritate anyone’s colon, so the problem is often worse for people with IBD. Similarly, fatty foods, sugary foods, and high-fiber fruits and vegetables are all harder to digest, especially in intestinal inflammation.

Eating in remission vs. eating during a flare

While no specific diet has been shown to prevent or treat IBD, certain dietary strategies can help you control IBD symptoms and minimize flare-ups. 

When your symptoms have subsided, and you’re in remission, it’s important to maintain a diverse, nutrient-dense diet and keep yourself well-hydrated. Avoid known dietary triggers, eat smaller, more frequent meals, use simple cooking techniques (boiling, grilling, steaming, or poaching) and introduce new foods slowly. 

A healthy IBD diet looks like the average heart-healthy diet: Plenty of high-fiber foods you can tolerate, lean protein sources, a colorful array of produce, dairy-free calcium sources (most people with IBD are lactose intolerant), and probiotic-rich foods like miso or sauerkraut.

When you’re in an IBD flare, temporarily switching to a low-fiber/low-residue diet can help ease gastrointestinal distress, give your digestive system a rest, and relieve your symptoms.

If you have questions about your IBD diet, we have answers. Call 609-793-9375 to reach our Brooklyn, New York, office today, or use the easy online booking feature to schedule a visit at Sam Weismann, MD, any time.

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