Vitamins for Crohn's Disease

During flares, you may not be able to eat much healthy food. And your body won’t take in nutrients well. But supplements may help. Your doctor can tell you which vitamins and minerals you need, based on how Crohn's affects your body and what drugs you take.

Crohn’s and Your Body

Your condition can make you feel sick and tired because you can’t eat the right foods. It may affect how your medication works, too, and it can stop kids from growing normally.

You may not get enough nutrients because:

Your gut is inflamed or damaged. It's hard to absorb carbohydrates, fats, water, and vitamins and minerals. Surgery for Crohn's can also cause this problem if too much of your small intestine gets removed.

You don’t want to eat. This can happen because of pain, diarrhea, anxiety, and changes in taste.

You take prescription medication for Crohn’s. Some drugs make it harder to absorb nutrients.

You’re bleeding inside your body. The damage to your intestines can cause blood loss over time. This can lead to anemia, which can lower your iron levels.

Nutrients You May Miss

With Crohn's, you’re 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 get enough of this. Your doctor will probably prescribe shots or pills.

Folic acid: Some Crohn's drugs, like methotrexate and sulfasalazine, lower your body’s levels of folic acid. Your doctor may have you try a folate supplement.

Calcium: Steroids for Crohn's disease can weaken your bones. If your body can't digest milk or milk products, you're even more likely to be short on calcium. Your doctor may tell you to take extra supplements to help keep your bones strong and prevent other problems.

Vitamin D: It helps your body absorb calcium for strong bones, but people with Crohn's disease often don’t have enough. Your doctor may tell you to take a daily supplement.

Vitamins A, E, and K: Surgery on your intestines can make it hard for your body to absorb fats. That lowers your levels of these vitamins.

Iron: It's the best treatment for anemia from blood loss in your intestines. Your doctor may tell you to take iron tablets, liquid, or infusions.

Potassium, magnesium, and zinc: Your doctor may suggest a daily supplement to raise your levels.

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Foods or Supplements?

Almost any diet expert will tell you it's better to get vitamins and minerals from foods than from a pill. But if you have Crohn's disease, that's not always possible. Certain healthy foods, like high-fiber nuts and seeds, may trigger symptoms.

Crohn's -- especially when it's active -- can make your body work harder, too. So you may need more calories and nutrients than other people. In these cases, supplements can help fill the gaps.

Work With Your Doctor

Don't make the supplements decision by yourself. Talk to your doctor first. While they can help you be better nourished, some can affect the way your Crohn's drugs work, or make your symptoms worse.

He may want to test your levels of iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and other vitamins and minerals. What you need may also depend on where the damage is in your intestines.

Together, you can decide which supplements could help you feel better.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on November 30, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

ASPEN Nutrition Support Patient Education Manual: "Nutrition and Crohn's Disease."

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: "What Are the Complications of Crohn's Disease?"

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America: "Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)," "Diet and Nutrition."

Medscape: "Vitamin D Intake Associated with Reduced Risk of Crohn's Disease."

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: "Ulcerative Colitis."

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