Unfortunately, medical experts do not know much 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. Until more concrete discoveries are made, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of a flare-up, manage symptoms, and reduce the likeliness of increased disease activity.
Just as no evidence suggests any one particular diet causes Crohn’s disease, there is also not a set dietary plan that is optimal for all Crohn’s patients. However, it’s very important that people with Crohn’s disease learn which foods and drinks can make their symptoms worse. This is especially true during flare-ups.
Avoiding foods that have caused you trouble in the past may be helpful in reducing symptoms in the future. Not sure what foods are contributing to your symptoms? 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 time, you will likely be able to identify 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. Remember, though, that these tips may not work for you.
Dairy products may worsen symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas. 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 make digestion easier.
For some people, fiber may be helpful in keeping your digestive system regulated and flowing. This is especially true if you have chronic diarrhea, as fiber can help add bulk to your stool, which increases intestinal mobility and helps food pass through the intestines more quickly. 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.
Your intestines need fluids to properly perform their duties. If you become dehydrated, your symptoms may increase. It is best to stay away from 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 may not work 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. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements to make sure you take what is right for you.