Taking vitamins can be a big help when you have Crohn's. During flares, you may not eat healthy -- or eat much at all. And your body may not absorb nutrients well. Taking vitamins can ease your mind, so you know you are getting what you need.
Your doctor can tell you which vitamins or minerals you may be missing, based on how Crohn's affects your body and what drugs you take.
Crohn's Disease and Your Diet
Crohn's makes you more likely to be poorly nourished. This can make you feel run-down and sick. Your Crohn's drugs may not work as well. In children and teens, it can stunt growth.
You may not get enough nutrients because:
- Your gut is inflamed or damaged. This makes it hard to absorb carbohydrates, fats, water, and many vitamins and minerals from food. Surgery for Crohn's can also make this a problem.
- You have no desire to eat. Pain, diarrhea, anxiety, and changes in taste can make it hard to eat enough.
- You take Crohn's drugs. Some make it harder to absorb nutrients.
- You have bleeding inside your body. This can lead to anemia, which can lower your iron levels.
What Nutrients You May Be Missing
With Crohn's, you are more likely to have lower levels of:
- Vitamin B12. If you've had surgery in the lower part of your small intestine, you may not absorb enough B12. A B12 vitamin, injection, or nasal spray can help.
- Folic acid. Some Crohn's drugs, such as sulfasalazine or methotrexate, can lower levels of folic acid. A daily 1-milligram dose of a folate supplement may help.
- Calcium. Steroids for Crohn's disease can weaken bones and make it hard to absorb calcium. If your body can't digest milk or milk products, you're even more likely to be short on calcium. Up to 50% of people with Crohn's have osteopenia, or thinning of the bones. Taking additional supplements -- often 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day -- can help keep bones strong and prevent other problems.
- Vitamin D. People with Crohn's disease often have low levels of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium for strong bones. Your doctor may suggest an 800 IU supplement of vitamin D daily.
- Vitamins A, E, and K. Surgery can make it hard for your body to absorb fats. This lowers your level of these.
- Iron. Iron is the best treatment for anemia from blood loss in your intestines. Your doctor may suggest iron tablets, liquid, or infusions.
- Potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Taking a daily supplement can raise low levels of these caused by Crohn's.