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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Health Center

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Vitamins for Crohn's Disease

Taking vitamins can be a big help when you have Crohn's. During flares, you may not be able to eat much healthy food, or anything else. And your body may not absorb nutrients well. Taking vitamins can ease your mind, so you know you're getting what you need.     

Your doctor can tell you which vitamins or minerals you're short on, based on how Crohn's affects your body and what drugs you take.

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Crohn's Disease and Your Diet

Crohn's makes it harder to nourish yourself. 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. It's hard to absorb carbohydrates, fats, water, and many vitamins and minerals from food. Surgery for Crohn's can also cause this problem.
  • You have no desire to eat. This can happen because of pain, diarrhea, anxiety, and changes in taste. As a result, you don't 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.

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 of this. 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 this key mineral. 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 extra 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 this vitamin, which helps your body absorb calcium for strong bones. Your doctor may suggest an 800-IU supplement of it daily.
  • Vitamins A, E, and K. Surgery can make it hard for your body to absorb fats. This lowers your levels of these.
  • Iron. It's the best treatment for anemia from blood loss in your intestines. Your doctor may suggest iron tablets, liquid, or infusions.
  • Potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Your doctor may recommend a daily supplement to raise your levels of these.

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