Home > Health Library > Bowel Disease: Changing Your Diet
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
are types of
inflammatory bowel disease. They cause inflammation
and sores (ulcers) in the
digestive tract. This can lead to symptoms such as
diarrhea, belly pain, loss of appetite, fever, bloody stools, and weight loss.
Often symptoms are worse after eating.
If you have an
inflammatory bowel disease, it may be hard to get important nutrients such as
vitamins, minerals, and protein. Your intestines may not be able to take all
the nutrients from the food you eat. You may lose nutrients through diarrhea.
This can lead to problems such as anemia or low levels of vitamins, such as
vitamin B12 and
To control their symptoms,
some people eat only bland foods, like pasta, and they avoid fruits and
vegetables. But you need to eat a variety of foods to get the nutrients you
need for good health. This topic can help you learn more about how to eat
so you can manage your symptoms but still get the nutrition you need.
Some foods may
make your symptoms worse, especially during a flare-up. For many people, common
problem foods include:
Dairy foods are a problem for everyone with
inflammatory bowel disease.
Some people with inflammatory bowel disease are
lactose-intolerant and will do better if they avoid dairy products. If you
think they make your symptoms worse, you may want to work with your doctor to
find out if you are lactose-intolerant. If you aren't, you may be able to have
dairy products when your disease is under control. Dairy products are a good
source of calcium and protein.
Continue to Why?
What you eat does not increase the inflammation that causes your disease.
But some types of foods, such as high-fiber fruits and vegetables, may make
your symptoms worse. This is especially true during a flare-up. As a result,
you may be tempted not to eat these foods at all. But that can make it hard to
get the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
A better idea is to
keep a food diary to find out which foods cause problems for you. Then you can
avoid those foods and choose others that supply the same nutrients. Foods that
cause symptoms during a flare-up may not bother you at other times.
To learn more about nutrients and the types and amounts of food you need
to be healthy, see the topic
Eating foods that make my symptoms worse also makes my
Certain foods may make your symptoms worse, but
they do not increase the inflammation that is causing your disease.
Continue to How?
No one diet is right for everyone with an inflammatory bowel disease.
Foods that bother one person may not bother another. Your diet has to be
tailored for you. But the following basic ideas can help you feel better and
get the nutrition you need.
Find your problem foods
Find out your problem foods by keeping a food diary.
As soon as you know what foods make your symptoms worse, your doctor or
dietitian can help you plan a diet that avoids problem foods but gives you
plenty of nutrients and enough calories to keep you at a healthy weight.
To make a food diary, get a small notebook and keep it with you. Make
notes after each meal or snack.
If you notice certain foods make your symptoms worse, talk
to your doctor about these foods at your next visit.
Make smart food choices
During a flare-up, avoid
or reduce foods that make symptoms worse. But instead of cutting out a whole
group of high-nutrient foods, try replacing them with healthy choices.
Get the calories and nutrients you need
Your body may not be able to absorb all the nutrients
it needs from the food you eat. To stay as healthy as you can:
I need to eat a high-calorie, high-protein
You may not be absorbing all the nutrients from
the food you eat, so you need to eat a high-calorie, high-protein diet. This
may be easier to do if you eat 3 meals plus 2 or 3 snacks each day.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read this
information, you are ready to follow an eating plan for inflammatory bowel
If you have questions about
this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor or dietitian. You
may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins where you have
If you would like more information on inflammatory bowel
diseases, the following resources are available:
information on nutrition, see the topic
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) is a
nonprofit, voluntary organization dedicated to finding the cure for Crohn's
disease and ulcerative colitis. This organization sponsors basic and clinical
research, offers educational programs for patients and health professionals,
and provides supportive services.
This clearinghouse is a service of the U.S. National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the
U.S. National Institutes of Health. The clearinghouse answers questions;
develops, reviews, and sends out publications; and coordinates information
resources about digestive diseases. Publications produced by the clearinghouse
are reviewed carefully for scientific accuracy, content, and readability.
Return to topic:
Other Works Consulted
Decher N, Krenitsky JS (2012). Medical nutrition therapy for lower gastrointestinal tract disorders. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13 ed., pp. 610–644. St Louis: Saunders Elsevier.
October 8, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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