Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Here is a helpful overview.
Although Crohn’s disease can affect any portion of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the ileum (the end of the small intestine) as well as the colon. It can also affect a person’s eyes, skin and/or joints.
This disease is, overall, the result of an overactive immune system that chronically inflames the GI tract to fight a nonexistent threat. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but it most likely develops because of genetic predisposition and/or environmental factors.
Do I Have This Condition?
Frequent diarrhea and mild to moderate abdominal pain are the most common symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, additional symptoms can include fever, fatigue, blood in stools, reduced appetite/weight loss, mouth sores, and pain and/or drainage around the anal area. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
As WebMD.com explains, this disease typically flares, whether for days, weeks or months, and then there are remission periods. These remissions can last for a few days or even for years. Symptoms can increase because of infections, including but not limited to colds; cigarette smoking; and some anti-inflammatory drugs, including over-the-counter ones like ibuprofen and aspirin.
What is the Crohn’s Disease Diet?
No two cases of Crohn’s disease are exactly alike and, although food choices don’t cause the disease, you typically need to modify what you eat during flare periods. And, while you may need to use trial and error to discover your problem foods, here are some of the most common foods that cause Crohn’s disease flare-ups:
● High-fat foods such as butter, margarine, and cream sauces
● Greasy or fried foods
● Spicy foods
● High-fiber foods such as seeds, nuts, and popcorn
How Can I Recover From a Flare? Control the Condition?
Crohn’s Disease Diet
Even if you carefully avoid all your problem foods, you will likely experience flare-ups from time to time. Luckily, there are steps you can take to lessen the severity of your flare:
- Eat smaller meals more often— try five small meals per day instead of three large ones.
- Eat bland foods that are low in fiber and fat.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid coffee/caffeinated drinks, as well as carbonated ones.
During a flare-up, your doctor may prescribe a medication to ease inflammation. Types of medications that may be prescribed include:
- Certain anti-inflammatory drugs
- Corticosteroids (a more powerful anti-inflammatory)
- Anti-diarrheal drugs
- Drugs that modify the immune system
This is only a partial list of what your doctor might prescribe.
A Crohn’s flare-up can deplete your body of essential nutrients, so you may need to incorporate daily vitamins or supplements into your diet. Your doctor may recommend supplements such as the following:
- Vitamin B12: You may actually need a monthly shot of this vitamin.
- Vitamin D: You may not be getting enough of this one, especially if you live where you don’t always get enough exposure to sunshine.
- Iron: Intestinal bleeding can lead to low iron levels.
- Potassium: Diarrhea and vomiting can cause potassium loss, as can certain medications.
- Magnesium: Crohn’s can also affect your magnesium absorption.
- Probiotics: The symptoms of Crohn’s disease and the diet required to manage it could throw your microbiome out of balance, which can cause even more digestive problems. Probiotics can replace the good gut bacteria lost during a flare-up.
Talk to your doctor to see which of these medications and/or supplements will help you. You can find more information about supplements and Crohn’s at Health.com. More information about this condition can be found at the site for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and eMedicineHealth.com. You can also read the life story of someone who has Crohn’s disease at HealthCentral.com.