by Kimberly Allen, RN
“Good nutrition is one of the ways the body restores itself to health”. People suffering with any type of inflammatory bowel disease can feel helpless at times. However, making some adjustments in your diet as well as your lifestyle can not only help you manage your symptoms but also lengthen your periods of remission. While there is no evidence indicating that what a person eats causes any type of inflammatory bowel disease there is evidence that some foods as well as beverages can exacerbate your symptoms, especially if you’re having a flare up.
Though there are several types of inflammatory bowel disease they all involve the digestive tract which can make it very difficult for people with any type of inflammatory bowel disease to get the nutrients they need like vitamins and minerals as well as protein. The lack of important nutrients can lead to other health issues like anemia and insufficient levels of B12 and folic acid. The best way to stay healthy and keep your weight up is by eating a healthy but assorted diet. A significant part of managing inflammatory bowel disease is avoiding becoming malnourished. There is no single diet that will work for everyone with inflammatory bowel disease. There are some foods that make one person’s symptoms worse but do not bother another’s. The best way to determine which foods are making your symptoms worse is to start a food diary. When keeping a food diary it’s important to be honest and write down everything you eat. It is also important to document any symptom you experience as well as when they started.
When you are in a period of remission where you have your symptoms under control you should eat a well balanced diet consisting of protein, fruits and vegetables as well as carbohydrates like bread, pasta and of course dairy products. However, there are certain foods that are more difficult to digest and they should be limited or avoided like the skins on fruit, raw fruits and vegetables, whole grain, brown and wild rice as well as nuts and seeds. Although every person is different there are some common foods that most people with inflammatory bowel disease find make their symptoms worse. Many people with inflammatory bowel disease are lactose intolerant so dairy products tend to aggravate their symptoms. Therefore choosing dairy products like yogurt or hard cheeses that are low in lactose can still provide the nutrients you need while not aggravating your symptoms. Drinking reduced-lactose milk can also help. Many people also have fat in their stools especially during a flare up. To avoid or limit this problem you would want to choose foods that are lower in fat like lean cuts of meat, poultry and fish. Bake or broil your food instead of frying it. Because raw fruits and vegetables are more difficult to digest and can aggravate your symptoms you may tolerate them better by cooking them. There are a variety of ways you can prepare them including baking, steaming or stewing. You should always peel and remove any seeds as these can worsen your symptoms or you may want to opt for canned fruits and vegetables.
Because people with inflammatory bowel disease have difficulty absorbing all the nutrients they need in their diet it’s important to eat a high calorie, high protein diet. Eating either 6 small meals a day or 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks a day can make it easier to the the number of calories you need. Some people find that adding a high calorie liquid supplement like Ensure Plus helps. It is always important to maintain hydration, which can be a challenge during a flare up. Drinking sufficient water everyday can help avoid kidney problems. Many doctors will also recommend a vitamin and mineral supplement daily.
The most important thing to remember is that what affects your symptoms may not affect another person, even if you have the same type of inflammatory bowel disease. The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease are dependent on both the location of the disease in your intestine and how much of your intestine is affected as well as the severity of the inflammation. Finding what foods affect your individual disease and making adjustments in your diet can significantly improve your ability to manage your inflammatory bowel disease.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.