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Bowel Disease: Changing Your Diet

Bowel Disease: Changing Your Diet


Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are types of inflammatory bowel disease. What you eat doesn't increase the inflammation that causes your disease. But some types of foods, such as high-fiber fruits and vegetables, may make your symptoms worse.

No one diet is right for everyone with an inflammatory bowel disease. Foods that bother one person may not bother another. Your diet has to be tailored for you.

How to eat when you have inflammatory bowel disease

  • Keep a food diary. As soon as you know what foods make your symptoms worse, your doctor or dietitian can help you plan the right diet for you.
  • During a flare-up, avoid or reduce foods that make symptoms worse.
    • Choose dairy products that are low in lactose, such as yogurt, lactose-reduced milk, and hard cheeses like cheddar.
    • If you have fat in your stools (stools may look oily and smell bad), choose low-fat foods instead of high-fat ones. For instance, some cuts of red meat have a lot of fat. A low-fat choice would be lean beef (such as sirloin, top and bottom round, chuck, or extra-lean ground beef), poultry, or fish, such as cod.
    • Instead of frying foods, try baking or broiling them.
    • Cook fruits and vegetables without hulls, skins, or seeds.
    • Try different ways of preparing fruits and vegetables, such as steaming, stewing, or baking.
    • Peel and seed fresh fruits and vegetables if these bother you, or choose canned varieties.
    • Try the low-FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are in many types of foods. It stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. If you have digestive problems, these can make your symptoms worse. A low-FODMAP diet is when you stop eating high-FODMAP foods for about two months. Then you slowly add them back to your diet to see what foods cause digestion problems. When you are on the low-FODMAP diet, there's a long list of foods you should try not to eat. It includes some fruits (apples, pears, watermelon), vegetables (asparagus, peas, onion), and many beans and sweeteners.
  • Get the calories and nutrients you need.
    • Eat a varied, nutritious diet that is high in calories and protein.
    • Try eating 3 meals plus 2 or 3 snacks a day. It may be easier to get more calories if you spread your food intake throughout the day.
    • Take vitamin and mineral supplements if your doctor recommends them.
    • Try adding high-calorie liquid supplements, such as Ensure Plus or Boost Plus, if you have trouble keeping your weight up.
    • See your doctor or dietitian if your diet feels too limited or you are losing weight.
  • Make sure to get enough iron. Rectal bleeding may make you lose iron. Good sources of iron include:
    • Beef.
    • Lentils.
    • Spinach.
    • Raisins.
    • Iron-enriched breads and cereals.


Current as of: May 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Arvydas D. Vanagunas MD - Gastroenterology

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