If you have Crohn's disease, good nutrition is crucial so you can stay as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, the disease -- as well as treatments for it -- can make it much harder to get enough of the vitamins and minerals you need.
Doctors often recommend vitamins for Crohn's disease to work around this problem. Whether you need Crohn's disease vitamins -- and which ones -- depends on your case and the your medical treatments.
Here's a rundown of the minerals and vitamins for Crohn's disease that your body might not be getting -- and advice on how to get more of them.
Crohn's Disease Nutrition
Poor nutrition has real risks if you have Crohn's disease. You may feel run-down and sick. Medications may not work as well. In children and teens, poor nutrition related to Crohn's disease can stunt growth.
Why does Crohn's disease affect nutrition? There are several reasons.
- Inflammation and damage to the small intestine from Crohn's disease can make it hard for the body to absorb substances from food, such as carbs, fats, water, and many vitamins and minerals. Surgery for Crohn’s may also make it more difficult to absorb nutrients.
- Reduced appetite -- from pain, diarrhea, anxiety, and changes in taste -- makes it hard to eat enough.
- Some medications for Crohn's disease make it harder to absorb nutrients.
- Internal bleeding in the digestive tract can lead to anemia, which can cause low levels of iron.
Crohn's Disease Nutrition: What's Missing?
What vitamins and minerals are missing in your diet? People with Crohn's disease are likely to have lower levels of:
- Vitamin B12. After surgery in the ileum -- the lower section of the small intestine -- it may not be possible to absorb enough vitamin B12. Dietary changes and oral vitamins can help. Some people with Crohn's disease need injections of vitamin B12 or a B12 nasal spray.
- Folic acid. Some drugs for Crohn's disease, such as sulfasalazine or methotrexate, can lower levels of folic acid. A daily 1 mg dose of a folate supplement could help.
- Vitamin D. Studies have shown the people with Crohn's disease often have low levels of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium for strong bones. Many people with Crohn's disease take an 800 IU supplement of vitamin D daily.
- Vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K can be low in people who have trouble absorbing fats because of surgery for Crohn's disease.
- Calcium. Steroids for Crohn's disease can weaken bones and affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium. On top of that, some people with Crohn's disease avoid milk because they're also lactose intolerant, further reducing calcium. Up to 50% of people with Crohn's have osteopenia, or thinning of the bones. Taking additional supplements -- often 1,500 mg of calcium a day -- can help keep bones strong and prevent other problems.
- Iron. People with active Crohn's disease may develop anemia from blood loss in the intestines. The best treatment for anemia is with iron. Most people take iron tablets or liquid, but some get infusions instead.
- Potassium, magnesium, and zinc may be lower in people with Crohn's disease. Taking a daily supplement can help.