Until we know more about the causes of Crohn’s disease, who is most likely to get it, and what can be done to prevent the onset of the disease, prevention focuses primarily on managing symptoms and reducing the likeliness of increased disease activity or relapse.
Just as no evidence suggests any one particular diet causes Crohn’s disease, it also doesn’t show that a single diet plan is optimal for all Crohn’s patients. However, people with Crohn’s disease will know that certain foods and drinks can aggravate signs and symptoms. This is especially true during a time of increased activity.
Avoiding foods that have caused you trouble in the past may be helpful in reducing symptoms in the future. Not sure what foods are hurting you? Keep a food diary and track what you’re eating, how each food makes you feel, and if eliminating it from your diet reduces symptoms. In a matter of a few days, you will likely be able to pinpoint troublesome foods. Eliminate those from your diet, and if your symptoms decrease, you’ve found the offending foods.
While there is no one-size-fits-all diet plan, there are a few general rules that are helpful for the majority of Crohn’s patients.
Limit Dairy Products
Dairy products may make symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas worse. This is especially true if you are lactose intolerant and your body can’t properly digest the sugars in milk (lactose). Taking an enzyme product, such as Lactaid, may makes digestion easier.
Be Wary of Fiber
For some people, fiber may be helpful in keeping your digestive symptom regulated and flowing. This is especially true if you have chronic diarrhea, as fiber can help add bulk to your stool, which slows down the activity of your intestines. However, if you have any narrow spots or restrictions in your intestines, high-fiber foods may increase abdominal pain and exacerbate Crohn’s symptoms. Do not increase your dietary fiber or begin a high-fiber diet without first discussing possible side effects with your doctor.
Drink Plenty of Water
Your intestines need fluids to properly perform their duties. If you become dehydrated, your symptoms may increase. The same goes for alcohol and caffeinated beverages; if you drink these, you may notice increased symptoms.
Stress and anxiety can make the symptoms of Crohn’s disease worse. Stress can also trigger flare-ups. When you have an increased level of stress, your body’s normal processes can’t run properly; this includes your digestive tract. Stress can trigger symptoms or make existing ones worse. Finding a healthy way to handle daily stress, whether it’s through exercise, yoga, or talk therapy, is vitally important to increasing the number of days you’re in remission and symptom free.
Getting adequate exercise, eating a healthy diet, and kicking any tobacco habits can make the symptoms of Crohn’s disease easier to handle. Because Crohn’s can make nutrient absorption difficult, it’s also important to get adequate doses of vitamins and nutrients to make up for any lost due to malabsorption.