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Crohn's Disease: Diet and Nutrition

By Brenda Conaway
WebMD Feature

Diet does not cause Crohn's disease. But pay attention to what you eat, because it can help you control your symptoms. Cutting out some foods may help, especially during a flare. Still, you want to make sure you eat a variety of healthy foods.

Avoid Problem Foods

"At this point, we don't have an ideal diet for Crohn's. But we do know that certain types of foods can make symptoms worse or better," says Joshua Korzenik, MD. He's an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Crohn's and Colitis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Keep a food diary to figure out which foods, if any, cause you distress. Some foods may only be a problem during flares. Common problem foods for people with Crohn's include:

High-fat, greasy, and fried foods. About one-third of people with Crohn's find these hard to digest. These include:

  • Cream sauces
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Anything deep-fried

High-fiber foods. For example:

  • Corn
  • Popcorn
  • Seeds
  • Nuts

Dairy foods. These are important for your health, but if they cause diarrhea, pain, or gas, you may not be able to digest them. It’s often hard to tell if your symptoms are from the Crohn's or from lactose intolerance. To find out, get tested. If you are lactose intolerant, Lactaid pills may help you digest milk and milk products.

Eating During a Flare

Try these tips to calm your symptoms and stay healthy during a flare:

  • Eat soft, bland foods. Avoid foods that are spicy or high in fiber.
  • Eat smaller meals and more often. Instead of three large meals, eat five small ones.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Chronic diarrhea can make you lose body fluid, which makes you feel weak and tired. It can also affect your kidneys and even lead to kidney stones. Talk to your doctor about how much and what fluids to drink. Avoid soda and drinks with caffeine. They can bother your stomach.

How a Dietitian Can Help

If your symptoms make it hard for you to eat healthy, ask your doctor about working with a dietitian. A dietician can help you track what you eat, adjust your diet so you have fewer symptoms during flares, and make sure you get enough calories and are well nourished.

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