Dietary Dos and Don’ts for Digestive Diseases

Plate Between Fork and Knife.While it’s common for people to expect that some standard dietary restrictions will come along with Crohn’s or colitis, aside from a few special cases, there are really no universal answers to the question of what is good and bad to eat.

For those with an ostomy or a tendency toward diverticulitis or similar conditions, certain foods may be predictably troublesome, but the majority of IBD patients will vary widely in what they can and can’t eat comfortably.

Frustrating as the uncertainty may be, it’s really up to the patient to determine his or her safe and risky foods. The good thing is that your body is generally pretty good at communicating what it does and doesn’t like to digest. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to discern what it’s telling you.

Here are some dos and don’ts to consider as you navigate this tricky process.


  • Give up on a food the first time it seems to cause problems. Wait a while and try it again under different circumstances.
  • Change several things in your diet at once. Try to alter only one variable at a time so you can observe the results.
  • Shock your system with dramatic changes in diet. Ease into your new plans and give your body time to adapt.
  • Be discouraged if you don’t find easy answers or quick results. This takes time and experimentation.
  • Allow the difficulty to stop you from eating enough food.
  • Judge your health by comparing your safe and problematic foods to those of others. Everyone is unique.
  • Be discouraged or angered by the challenge. It is a part of your life now, for better or worse. It’s OK to acknowledge the hardships, but try to spend the bulk of your energy on finding positive solutions.


  • Try to eat a balanced diet, despite the challenges.
  • Discuss it with your doctor, but realize you probably won’t get definite answers. There are no universal rules.
  • See a dietician or nutritionist if you’d like more help.
  • Find a support group and learn more about local resources.
  • Read books on the topic.
  • Keep a food diary, consult/analyze the data, and evaluate the insight it offers.
  • Make small changes to your diet as you observe the results.
  • Experiment with foods multiple times, in different situations, to test their safety for your system.
  • Realize that your dietary needs may evolve over time. Safe and troublesome foods may trade places as your body goes through cycles of inflammation, healing, and remission.

To put it simply, eat what makes you feel good and don’t eat things that cause trouble. Your diet may seem very limited at times. But as your disease evolves you may be able to expand your choices again.

Most of all, listen to your body. It has both obvious and subtle ways of telling you what it prefers. Bon appetit!

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About the Author

Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.