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Crohn's Nutrition Know-how

Eating Healthy With Crohn's

People with Crohn's disease often have a lack of appetite. In addition, Crohn's is associated with diarrhea and poor absorption of necessary nutrients. This can affect Crohn's patients' ability to receive the daily nutrition needed for good health and healing. (Read more about nutrients important to people with Crohn's in the Summer 2010 issue of Crohn’sAdvocate magazine.

For some people a diet high in fat (like fried foods or fatty red meat), dairy, or certain types of fiber may make their symptoms worse. On the other hand, most experts agree that eating high-protein foods and drinking plenty of fluids can be beneficial for people with Crohn's disease. You may want to consult a dietitian for tips on how to stay nutritionally healthy. Check with your healthcare professional to find out about specific dietary guidelines before making any changes to what you eat, and check with your doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.

Start with the basics

A healthy, well-balanced diet is always a good choice for people with Crohn's disease. No special Crohn’s diet plan has been proven effective for preventing or treating Crohn’s, but it is very important that people who have Crohn's follow a nutritious diet and avoid any foods that seem to worsen symptoms. There are no known consistent dietary rules to follow that will improve a person's symptoms.

ChooseMyPlate was released by the USDA in 2011 as a guideline for healthy nutrition. Obviously, as a person living with Crohn’s you must take into account any food sensitivities you have, but ChooseMyPlate provides a good place to start because it promotes activity and moderation along with a proper mix of food groups in people's diets.

ChooseMyPlate consists of 5 food groups:

  • Grains, recommending that at least half of grains consumed be whole grains
  • Vegetables, emphasizing dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, and dry beans and peas
  • Fruits, emphasizing variety and 100% fruit juices
  • Dairy, a category that includes milk other dairy products, focusing on fat-free or low-fat options
  • Protein, emphasizing low-fat and lean meats such as fish, poultry, and seafood as well as eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds
  • For adults (ages 18 to 64): at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level OR 1 hour and 15 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a vigorous level
Food Chart

Click to enlarge

Food Chart

Chart courtesy of National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture.

Below is an additional resource you can use to research the nutritional value of the foods you eat.

USDA National Nutrient Database and Nutrient Lists

Nutrient Data Laboratory, ARS, USDA
The USDA's online searchable database lets you look up the nutritional value of thousands of foods.

Want to find out which foods are high or low in a nutrient? See lists for a number of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and selected antioxidants and phytochemicals. The site provides lists with foods in alphabetical order as well as in descending order (high to low) by nutrient content.

Note: These tips should not replace advice from your physician. Always check with your physician before making any changes to your diet or exercise habits.

See also: Feel-good recipes, Registered dietitians: your new best friend, Doctors and insurance