For most people, a diet high in fiber that encourages regular bowel movements is the goal.
But if you have Crohn’s disease, you may be interested in a diet that reduces the number of daily bowel movements you have.
Thanks to special diets customized to your needs, relief may be possible.
If you have Crohn’s disease that affects the small bowel, you may eventually experience a narrowing of part of the small intestines called the ileum.
This may cause pain and cramping during bowel movements due to the residue certain foods add to stool.
Doctors often prescribe corticosteroids, which are steroids that help reduce inflammation in the body, to help ease Crohn’s disease flare-ups.
Modifying your diet may also help minimize the more severe symptoms of Crohn’s.
Though research is limited, some doctors prescribe a low fiber and low-residue diet, which generally limits your intake of foods that are harder to digest, such as:
- most raw fruits and vegetables
- some whole grains
- figs, prunes, and berries
Once the symptoms begin to decrease, you can gradually add these foods back into your diet.
When Crohn’s flare-ups are at their worst, temporarily adhering to a low fiber, low-residue liquid diet can help your digestive system recover.
The two primary types of liquid nutrition used for people with Crohn’s disease are whey protein formulas, which are made from dairy, and elemental formula, which is hypoallergenic and does not contain soy or dairy.
These formulas are high in calories and nutrients, so you can stay healthy while eating less solid food.
Which formula and how much of it your healthcare provider recommends depend on the severity of your Crohn’s disease symptoms and overall health.
They may recommend either a full or partial liquid diet. It’s important to stay in touch with your healthcare provider to make sure your diet is safe and nutritious.
The amount of liquid you’ll need to drink each day depends on your:
- activity level
- personal health and nutrition needs
Some people find it difficult to consume enough of the liquid to maintain their health.
In many cases, children, in particular, may struggle with consuming enough to stay healthy because they don’t like the way it tastes.
If this is the case, their doctor may recommend enteral feeding, or a feeding tube inserted through either the nose to the stomach or directly into the stomach, to deliver the nutrition into the body.
Researchers believe that bypassing part of the normal nutrition process helps ease the strain on the digestive system. More research is needed to confirm the overall effectiveness, especially in children.
Though it may be helpful and sometimes necessary in treating a Crohn’s disease flare, many people — both adults and children — find enteral feeding uncomfortable and sometimes impractical.
If children don’t tolerate enteral nutrition and don’t have any dairy allergies, giving them drinkable whey protein formula may help increase their calories and reduce symptoms related to Crohn’s disease. They may find it more palatable.
For dairy intolerance sufferers, pure pea protein, rather than whey derived from milk, may also be worth exploring.
Liquid diets and enteral feeding are sometimes medically necessary and can’t be avoided. It’s good to know the drawbacks ahead of time so you can be prepared if this diet is required.
Children especially may find it hard to adapt and feel “normal” in certain situations. Some potential downsides include:
- high costs — liquid formulas and enteral feeding supplies can cost as much as $200 a week
- unpalatable taste that hinders adhering to the diet
- potentially less social interaction with family and friends, and disruption of your daily routine
- children feeling isolated from their peers during mealtimes
- an extended program of a liquid diet can be difficult to maintain
dependence on enteral feeding, especially for those who start at a young age
Adults and children can be on either partial enteral nutrition (PEN) or exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN).
EEN is the recommended first-line therapy to treat active Crohn’s and is designed to induce remission. It’s a short-term program and may last 6 to 12 weeks.
During EEN, it’s important that you do not deviate from the liquid diet.
PEN is often used after EEN for the maintenance of remission in children with Crohn’s disease.
It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider about any difficulties you may be having with your liquid diet so that they can adjust it to best fit your needs.
It’s also important to avoid creating your own liquid diet, as this can lead to significant nutrient deficiencies and health complications.
Liquid formulas prescribed by your healthcare provider are specifically designed to deliver the calories and nutrients your body needs on a daily basis.
If you’re concerned about the nutritional quality of liquid feeding formulations, ask your doctor about products such as Liquid Hope, which is created with whole foods and can be used as an enteral formula and as a liquid meal replacement.