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Crohn's Disease Health Center

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Creating a Crohn's Disease Diet Plan

If you have Crohn's disease, you probably have found that certain foods trigger your intestinal symptoms, especially when the disease flares. Learning to avoid these food triggers may allow you to self-manage your Crohn's disease, reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, and promote intestinal healing.

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are two types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Both involve an immune reaction against the intestinal tract.

In ulcerative colitis, the colon is inflamed and the small intestine works normally. With Crohn's disease, often the small intestine is inflamed, making it hard to digest and absorb key nutrients from food. The lack of sufficient nutrients, along with a poor appetite, can lead to malnutrition for people with Crohn's disease. That malnutrition may result from alterations in taste, reduced food or nutrient intake, lack of sufficient nutrients, poor absorption, or the inflammatory bowel disease process itself.

When Crohn's disease affects just the small intestine, it results in diarrhea and undernourishment. When the large intestine is also inflamed, the diarrhea can be severe. Severe diarrhea combined with malnutrition often leads to problems. For example, a person with Crohn's disease may suffer from anemia and have low levels of vitamin B12, folic acid, or iron.

Nutritional deficiencies and an inability to maintain a normal weight are serious problems for many people, even children, with Crohn's disease.

What is a Crohn's disease diet plan?

You've probably read about different types of diets for Crohn's disease on the Internet. But the fact is, there is no scientifically proven diet for inflammatory bowel disease. Most experts believe, though, that some patients can identify specific foods that trigger their gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly during disease flares. By avoiding your "trigger foods," you may find that your GI symptoms of gas, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea are more manageable. At the same time, you will give your inflamed intestines time to heal.

If you have had problems absorbing nutrients due to Crohn's disease, it's important to follow a high-calorie, high-protein diet, even when you don't feel like eating. In this setting, an effective Crohn's disease diet plan, based on recommendations from experts, would emphasize eating regular meals -- plus an additional two or three snacks -- each day. That will help ensure you get ample protein, calories, and nutrients. In addition, you will need to take your doctor-recommended vitamin and mineral supplements. By doing so, you will be able to replenish the necessary nutrients in your body.

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