What To Eat When You Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

August 26, 2021 , , ,

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes a group of conditions whose two main forms are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These diseases cause inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract and disrupt the body’s capacity to digest and absorb nutrients. People with IBD may experience acute periods of symptoms (active phase) and other periods when their symptoms are absent (remission). Signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stools, decreased appetite, and weight loss. The exact cause of these diseases remains unknown and, therefore, there is no cure.

Menus for IBD

Why change your diet?

Changes in eating habits can potentially allow people with IBD to:

  • Reduce inflammation and achieve remission
  • Reduce medication
  • Reduce relapses
  • Reduce digestive symptoms
  • Avoid nutritional deficiencies
  • Prevent the risk of cancer
  • Optimize quality of life

General Tips

Here are some general tips for IBD:

  • Maintain optimal hydration at all times
  • Practice a relaxation activity for stress management
  • Sleep at least 7 hours a night
  • Eat slowly, in a well-seated position, and chew well
  • Eat smaller portions more often. This way, the absorption of nutrients is increased and nutritional needs are more likely to be met, even if one has a decreased appetite
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, xylitol, stevia, etc.) found in sugar free drinks, foods and chewing gum
  • Avoid processed foods, including those containing the following additives: carrageenan, emulsifiers, titanium dioxide and maltodextrin. Cook more with fresh, whole, unprocessed ingredients
  • Limit added sugars to less than 25 grams per day
  • Limit red meats, processed meats, and foods high in saturated or trans fats, including fried foods, commercial bakery products, high-fat dairy products, palm oil and coconut oil
  • Keep a food log with symptoms to help identify trigger foods and avoid eliminating too many foods, the goal being to achieve a varied and balanced diet

Dietary deficiencies and supplements

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially in iron, calcium, and vitamin D, are common in people with IBD, putting them at risk of anemia and bone density loss. In the active period of the disease, the absorption of vitamins and minerals may be decreased, which increases the risk of developing nutrient  deficiencies. It is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement during the months of October to April, and year-round for people 50 years of age and older. It is important to have an optimal intake of omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation. It is recommended to consume fish at least three times a week. People who follow a plant-based diet, or who do not consume fish, may consider taking an omega-3 supplement. It is important to consult a doctor and do a blood test to identify nutrient deficiencies and determine if supplements are necessary. Supplements should never be taken without the prior advice of a health care professional.

Dietary fiber

Often, people with IBD tend to limit dietary fiber for fear of having digestive symptoms. However, fiber is beneficial for gut health. It is recommended to consume foods that are high in soluble fiber and prebiotics in order to reduce diarrhea and inflammation in the colon, and thus optimize the gut microbiome. A recent study showed that a high-fiber and low-fat diet can reduce inflammation and intestinal dysbiosis, as well as improve the quality of life of patients with ulcerative colitis.

People who are in the active phase of the disease or who have stenosis, that is, a decrease in the width of the intestine that can cause blockages, should follow a low residue diet. However, it might be possible to eat some foods that contain fiber by modifying their texture, such as pureed fruits and vegetables as well as smoothies.

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Kathryn Adel
Kathryn holds a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition as well as a Bachelor and a Master Degree in Kinesiology, all from Laval University. She is a Registered Dietitian and active member of the Ordre professionnel des Diététistes Nutritionnistes du Québec (ODNQ) and of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She holds the Monash University's certification for the FODMAP diet and IBS, and has considerable clinical experience in that area. She is also an accomplished athlete, having ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health.

3 comments to “What To Eat When You Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease?”

September 5, 2021 Jessica said:

Thanks for this information. I’m always looking for IBS articles and it has been driving me nuts because I don’t see the way that diet is a very big factor. It’s really hard to find the correct information especially where I am living currently. The doctors are so focused on the use of biological medicine when I was treated that I was so sick from that the whole time. Thanks to the way I was treated I have lost my teeth and I got an infection where I lost my finger. It’s really been an awfully tough battle. And then I have to deal with the doctors that don’t believe it is a real thing! Yeah that’s fine if you want to believe that it’s just an excuse to get out of work have not been in my shoes. So I thank you for your information on the subject and I really appreciate it.

September 18, 2021 Kathryn Adel, MS, RD, CSSD, LD said:

Jessica you’re welcome, I’m glad that you found my article helpful.

October 2, 2021 Mark said:

They haven’t figured my issue out bowel movement is fine 63 years old I am just cutting sugar. I’d love to eat red meat but since this even the taste isn’t working any longer fish sounds great I will try to eat lots more

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