Crohn's Disease: Diet and Nutrition

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 30, 2023
3 min read

Foods don’t cause Crohn's disease, but they can make it feel worse. So it’s important to pay attention to what you eat. That can help you control your symptoms, especially during a flare.  

Keep a food diary to figure out if what you eat is an issue. Some things may only be a problem during flares. It’s still unclear how food affects Crohn’s. What seems to bother one person may not bother another. The choices that sometimes cause trouble for people with Crohn's include some whole foods and vegetables, as well as:

High-fat, greasy, and fried foods, like:

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

High-fiber foods like:

  • Corn
  • Popcorn
  • Seeds
  • Nuts

Milk and dairy-based foods like ice cream can cause problems, too. If you have diarrhea, belly pain, or gas after having some, you may not be able to digest it. This is lactose intolerance. Lactase pills can help.   

There are ways to help yourself feel better if you have a flare:

Eat soft, bland foods. Don’t eat anything spicy or high in fiber.

Eat smaller meals, and eat more often. Eat five small meals instead of three large ones.

Drink plenty of fluids. Chronic diarrhea can dehydrate you, which can make you feel weak and tired. It can also cause kidney stones. You'll definitely need to avoid sodas and caffeinated drinks. They can bother your stomach. If you need other options besides water, talk to your doctor.

If your symptoms make it tough for you to eat well, ask your doctor if you need one.

A dietitian can help you:

  • Track what you eat.
  • Adjust your diet so you have fewer symptoms during flares.
  • Make sure you get enough calories and the nourishment you need.


You may need to boost your diet with vitamins, minerals, and other supplements. Talk to your doctor before you try any. Most likely, they'll suggest a daily multivitamin and other supplements to help replace:

B vitamins: Crohn's can make you low in B12. And some Crohn's drugs make it hard for your body to take in folate, a type of B vitamin.

Vitamin D: You may not get enough of this vitamin, which helps you absorb calcium and keep your bones strong. Sunlight is one way you get it. So if you don't go outside often, live in the far northern parts of the U.S., or if you take corticosteroids for a long time, you probably don’t get enough.

Iron: Inflamed tissue in your intestines can cause bleeding, which can lower your levels.

Potassium: Diarrhea and some corticosteroid drugs can zap your stores of this mineral.

Magnesium: Chronic diarrhea, Crohn's in your small intestine, or having much of your intestine removed, can make it hard to get enough magnesium.

Calcium: If you can't eat dairy, or if your body doesn't absorb it well, you may not have enough. If you take corticosteroids for a long time, that can also cause bone loss.

In some cases, your doctor may suggest you get nutrients through a feeding tube (“enteral” nutrition) or injected into a vein (“parenteral” nutrition). This gives your bowel a rest and can help you get all of the nutrients you need.

When the balance between helpful and harmful bacteria in your gut is off -- say, when you take an antibiotic -- it can cause diarrhea and other problems.

Probiotics are "friendly" bacteria that help keep harmful bacteria in check. Researchers are looking at whether they can help ease Crohn's symptoms and help people avoid flares. Ask your doctor if probiotics are right for you.