For most people, a diet high in fiber that encourages regular bowel movements is the goal. If you’re a Crohn’s sufferer, however, the time will come when you’ll need to reduce the number of your daily bowel movements. Thanks to special diets customized to your needs, relief is possible.
Most people who have Crohn’s disease that affects the small bowel will eventually experience a narrowing of the small intestines (the ileum). This may cause pain and cramping during bowel movements, due to the residue certain foods add to stool.
Modifying your diet can help minimize more severe symptoms. The key is to achieve a low-fiber and low-residue diet, which is generally done by limiting intake of hard-to-digest foods such as nuts, seeds, and raw fruits and vegetables. Once the symptoms begin to decrease, you may gradually add these items back in.
How the Liquid Diet Works
For some, a low-fiber, low-residue liquid diet is the best way to ensure you’re going easy on your digestive system. The diet starts with clear liquids, limited to such items as coffee, soup, water, gelatin, popsicles, and tea, for example. If the clear diet improves Crohn’s symptoms, you’ll then progress to full liquids.
The full liquid diet allows you to get a little more creative, as you can choose to drink a nutritional shake, like Boost, ground up Cream of Wheat, or even pureed meat and vegetables, ice cream, and vegetable juices.
Another option is enteral nutrition. Crohn’s sufferers have reported decreased symptoms through enteral nutrition, which involves getting necessary nutrients through a feeding tube. The theory is that bypassing part of the normal nutrition process will ease strain on the digestive system.
Although enteral nutrition has been successful in treating adults with Crohn’s, parenteral nutrition—where a patient is fed intravenously instead of through a nose feeding tube—in studies, adults did better with parenteral nutrition.
For children, however, enteral nutrition appears to be unilaterally more favorable. An Israeli doctor found that enteral nutrition helped induce remission in children who participated. This is an important discovery for parents of children dealing with Crohn’s, as many medicines have side effects too dangerous for children to use.
Drawbacks of the Liquid Diet
One drawback to a liquid diet of any type is the disruption to your daily routine. Eating has become a huge part of our culture, with many events and milestones celebrated over a meal. By cutting food out of your diet, you might unintentionally cut down on your participation in these milestones.
Liquid nutrition can be especially disconcerting to children who simply want to fit in at school and with friends. For enteral nutrition to help induce remission, children have to stay on the diet for six to eight weeks, with continued nutrition required for years afterward. While a child can veer from the diet occasionally, to be most effective, it’s important for parents to make sure the majority of their diet is liquid.
Other issues with enteral nutrition are price and taste. Enteral nutrition can cost as much as two hundred dollars per week, and many consumers complain about its flavor.