Crohn's Disease Diet

Make simple, consistent improvements to your diet and nutrition to better manage your Crohn's Disease symptoms.

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Build a tailored nutrition plan to treat your Crohn's Disease

Alleviate your Crohn's symptoms with a meal plan customized to your individual needs.

Although there is no "cure" for Crohn's Disease, combining traditional medicine with the recommendations from our Registered Dietitians for Crohn's Disease can help you re-establish a normal routine and feel healthier

Our Registered Dietitians help you determine:

  • Which foods your digestive system handles well, across all food groups
  • Tips on how to plan your snacks and meals throughout the day
  • Foods to eat and foods to avoid
  • How to make these changes sustainable and set you up for long-term success.

A nutritionist for Crohn's Disease can be the perfect partner to your primary care doctor to help you manage your Crohn's Disease.  Our evidence-based process can help you implement proven strategies to feel better and improve your health.

Crohn's Disease Treatments to Supplement Diet

We work with your doctor to determine the best way to treat your Crohn's Disease Flares, including medical tests and potential surgery.

When Crohn’s is active, let the bowel rest and heal as much as possible. Therefore, we recommend a low fiber, low residue diet.  We provide specific food recommendations below.

If improving your diet does not alleviate all symptoms, common medical procedures include: Bowel Resection, Ostomies, Strictureplasty and Fistula Removal.


Crohn's Disease: Let's Talk

Colitis, Ulcerative Colitis, and Crohn's are often used interchangeably - but in reality, they explain three different conditions. Colitis is the general inflammation of large intestine lining (colon). It is synonymous with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) and encompasses multiple conditions. Ulcerative Colitis: is a specific digestive issue, identified by ulcers on your large intestine. Crohn's is an inflammatory condition that can occur anywhere along the GI tract.

What is Crohn's Disease

  1. Crohn's Disease is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease that describes Inflammation of your large intestine (colon)
  2. Symptoms include abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, malabsorption, fatigue, weight loss, malnutrition, blood in stool
  3. Like other GI conditions, researchers believe that Crohn's Disease is triggered by an auto-immune system attack- by either virus or bacteria
  4. Risk factors include: genetics, age, along with lifestyle choices (tobacco, smoking, etc.)
  5. Although there is no known cure, many treatment options are available. Long term remission is possible through dietary improvements and medication
  6. Crohn's can be degenerative- without proper treatment, your symptoms may get worse over time
  7. Complications can be life-threatening, including
    • Bowel obstruction, ulcers, fistulas, anal fissure
    • Increased risk of colon cancer
    • Some of the medications are immune suppressants

It can be challenging to differentiate between Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

  1. If you think that you may have a GI condition, the first step is to schedule an appointment with your doctor
  2. Your doctor will evaluate your medical and family history
  3. Crohn's Disease includes any and all of the GI tract (mouth to anus), the entire thickness of bowel wall
  4. Ulcerative Colitis affects your colon and rectum, inner most lining of bowel wall
  5. Both are in the category of an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Our summary of the two conditions is below.  You can also read a more detailed explanation about the differences between Colitis and Crohn's Disease here.

  Ulcerative Colitis Crohn's Disease

What if Affects

Ulcerative Colitis specifically affects your large intestine, also known as the large bowel or colon.  The ulcers form on only the top layer of tissue in your colon

Anywhere along your GI tract, although it is commonly found in the small intestine and large intestine.  Crohn's impacts all tissue layers at its site

Crohn's can also cause issues with your skin, eyes, and joints

Symptoms

  • Urgency of bowel movement
  • Loose stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Occasional constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fatigue
  • Skin conditions
  • Joint pain
  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Fistulas

Treatment

  • Dietary Improvements
  • Medication
  • Surgery, as a last resort
  • Dietary Improvements
  • Medication

Diagnosis: performed by a gastroenterologist

  • Stool Test
  • Endoscopy of esophagus and stomach
  • Colonoscopy
  • Biopsy of colon tissue
  • CT Scan
  • Blood Test
  • Stool Test
  • Endoscopy of esophagus and stomach
  • Colonoscopy
  • CT Scan or MRI

 

Our summary of the two conditions is below.  You can also read a more detailed explanation about the differences between Colitis and Crohn's Disease here.


Improve your Crohn's symptoms and take action — today!

Take your reading on the go and download the PDF, included with your downloadable guide is a 7-day meal plan complete with easy-to-follow recipes.

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crohns nutrition guide

What foods should you eat with Crohn's Disease?

If you have Crohn's Disease, very minor changes to what you eat can make a BIG difference in your symptoms. Consider keeping food logs or adjusting foods that trigger your symptoms. You may also want to work with your doctor or dietitian to work through an elimination diet. Generally, you should try to:

  1. Take your time when you eat. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation recommends eating 4-6 smaller meals per day. Eating a bit more slowly also prevents you from ingesting too much air and becoming gassy
  2. Stay hydrated. Aim for 64 oz of water each today. Your urine should be a light yellow to clear color
  3. Relax! Exercise and relaxation techniques can help you relax and alleviate your Crohn's Disease symptoms
  4. Use simple cooking techniques. We recommend baking, grilling, or steaming to preserve most food's nutrient content

In terms of specific food recommendations, go with these:

Food Type Examples

Lean Protein

  • Fish: salmon, tilapia, flounder
  • Lean cuts of pork
  • White meat chicken
  • Eggs: offer several essential nutrients, including omega-3 supplementation. They are typically easy to digest
    And for plant-based diets:
  • Soy
  • Firm tofu

Low Fiber Fruits

  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew melon
  • Cooked fruits, which are especially relevant if you have recently had surgery
  • Avocados, which are rich in nutrients and healthy fats.

Veggies

Veggies can be hit or miss, so be be very specific:

Foods with Probiotics

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sourdough bread
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh

 

During a flare up, you many find it more comfortable to eat bland, soft food, otherwise limiting spicy foods.  During periods of remission, you should eat all of your usual items with the omission of known offenders.

Crohn's Disease and Probiotics

Some experts believe that probiotics can help restore the “good” bacteria imbalance in microbiome, which can help to subdue the immune response in the gut and reduce Crohn’s Disease symptoms. These experts maintain that adding probiotics reduces intestinal inflammation, which alleviates frequent symptoms such as diarrhea and upset stomach.

However, although some scientists believe that probiotics can help, very little research has been done to establish a direct link between probiotic consumption and improved Crohn’s Disease symptoms. The research that does exist has only been conducted on a very small number of people. Consequently, it is hard to generalize these results to everyone who suffers from Crohn’s Disease. One of these small studies showed improvements in the barrier function of the intestine and an increase in anti-inflammatory compounds in the gastrointestinal tract. These findings led the researchers to conclude that probiotics are “promising” as a treatment for Crohn’s Disease.

Read our full discussion of the benefits of Probiotics for Crohn's Disease here.

Foods to avoid with Crohn's Disease

Most importantly, we highlight that each person's food sensitivities and triggers are different

Below is a list of common trigger foods; keep in mind that they vary for each person


  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Dairy products (if lactose intolerant)
  • Dried beans, peas, legumes, dried fruits or berries
  • Fruits with pulp or seeds
  • Foods containing sulfur or sulfate
  • Foods high in fiber (including whole-grained products)
  • Hot sauces and spicy foods
  • High fat meats
  • Nuts and crunchy nut butters
  • Popcorn
  • Products containing sorbitol (sugar-free gum and candies)
  • Raw vegetables
  • Refined sugar
  • Seeds

 

Reduce flare-ups, gain energy, and improve your quality of life.

Go beyond what you're learning in this guide, included with the downloadable PDF is a 7-day meal plan complete with easy-to-follow recipes.

Download the Guide!

crohns nutrition guide

I have heard that fiber is good for Crohn's Disease.  What does OnPoint Say?  

  • We encourage you to eat a medium/high fiber diet when you are not experiencing a flare up.  A high fiber diet is almost always encouraged in all adults, part of maintaining a healthy gut as well

  • If you decide to increase your fiber intake, increase it gradually, even if you are not having GI or IBD issues presently

  • You may find a "Low Residue" approach helpful.  We have seen it work well for some people

  • Increase or be aware of hydration and fluid intake.  Try to drink at least 64 oz of water per day

  • Some studies show that a higher fiber diet can improve IBD conditions

 


How Does Crohn's Disease Affect My Body?

Crohn's Disease and Eye Function

Although Crohn’s Disease is known for causing digestive problems, it can also affect other areas of your body. Individuals with Crohn’s may experience skin complications, joint pain, and eye problems. About 10 percent of individuals with Crohn’s have problems with their eyes at some point.

Eye problems linked to Crohn's Disease include:

  • Episcleritis
  • Scleritis
  • Uveitis
  • Keratopathy
  • Dry Eyes
  • Optic Neuritis

Different conditions require different treatments.

  • Episcleritis is treated with cold compresses or topical steroids to relieve inflammation.
  • Scleritis is treated with eye drops or oral medications.
  • Uveitis is treated with topical or systemic steroids to clear inflammation, or medications to dilate the pupil.
  • Keratopathy is treated with lubricating fluid or gel. If the condition does not resolve, prescription eye drops are used.
  • Dry eyes are treated with eye drops or warm compresses.
  • Optic neuritis may resolve on its own, but if it does not, IV medications, injections, and steroids are all treatment options.

In general, treating Crohn’s disease and reducing inflammation will also alleviate eye problems. Additionally, avoiding Crohn’s flares also reduces the risk of developing eye problems in the future.

Crohn's Disease and Skin Rash, Irritation

Extra-intestinal manifestations including rashes and skin irritation will get worse during a flare and resolve during periods of remission. These rashes oftentimes fluctuate in-line with the inflammation throughout your body.

Skin conditions associated with Crohn's Disease include:

  • Erythema nodosum (EN)
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum (PG)
  • Sweet’s Syndrome
  • Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis
  • Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita
  • Psoriasis
  • Vitiligo
  • Canker Sores
  • Anal Fissures
  • Acne
  • Skin Tags

No matter you skin condition’s cause, it is best to talk with your doctor about your skin concerns. He or she can help you identify the cause and develop a treatment plan.

If you are experiencing a skin condition associated with a Crohn’s Disease flare, the best way to manage your skin is to manage the flare. Reducing inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract will also reduce inflammation throughout the rest of your body, including your skin.

Crohn's Disease and Body Pain

Crohn’s Disease pain originates from inflammation in the digestive tract and can spread systemically throughout your body.

Most people experience gastrointestinal pain in the stomach, abdomen, or anus. Additionally, some people may also experience pain in peripheral parts of the body such as their joints and eyes.

Each person perceives pain differently, and thus describes their pain in different ways. We list common pain descriptors below:

  • Cramping
  • Stabbing
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Painful Spasms
  • “A Charley Horse in your gut”
  • Tightness

While not all people with Crohn’s Disease will experience pain in other areas, almost all people with Crohn’s Disease will experience GI pain at some point in their life… especially if the condition is not treated.

Read more about general body pain and Crohn's Disease in our full write up.

 

 


Common Questions we get about Crohn's Disease

Do you have recipes that are GI friendly?

  1. Yes! Anything from our member portal free of your trigger foods

  2. Anti inflammatory recipes cookbook

Who can help treat my Crohn's Disease?

A dietitian with an expertise in GI and digestive issues, such as OnPoint!  In addition to a dietitian, always consult your primary care doctor. They can refer you to a local GI specialist if needed

If diagnosed, you may want to seek a specialist for your specific disease in your area

Is Crohn's Disease Contagious?

Whether you are in an active flare or remission, Crohn’s disease is not contagious and cannot be spread to others. To further understand why Crohn’s is not contagious, let’s look deeper into what causes Crohn’s disease.

Researchers currently believe that genetic factors may influence the onset of Crohn's Disease.  Further, environmental factors such as stress also play a role in developing symptoms.  There is a third theory that certain pathogens may be linked to Crohn's Disease.

Is Crohn's Disease a Genetic Condition?

The risk of developing Crohn’s increases if both parents have IBD. Research suggests that if one parent has IBD, their child has about an 8 percent risk of developing the disease during his or her lifetime. This risk increases to 35 percent if both parents have IBD. Research conducted on identical twins shows that if one twin has Crohn’s the other twin has a 50 percent chance of developing IBD as well.

Crohn’s Disease history in your family does not automatically mean you will develop Crohn’s at any point in your life. Rather, you are simply at a higher risk than someone without a genetic predisposition.

Researchers are currently working to identify genes that may be linked to Crohn’s Disease. At this point, more than 200 genes have been linked to IBD in some fashion. Some of the 200 genes are recessive genes, which have a lower likelihood of being passed on. Most of these mutations slightly shift the amount, timing, and location of genetic expression, which may alter the gene's function. These genes are often tied to the immune system, and increase the risk for developing Crohn’s.

Read our full discussion of Crohn's Disease and genetics.

How is Crohn’s Disease diagnosed? 

Themost common diagnostic toolsused for Crohn’s disease areblood tests, stool studies, and colonoscopy.  Your doctor will most likely perform multiple tests to confirm the diagnosis.  For example, while blood tests do not definitively confirm Crohn’s Disease, they can indicate signs of anemia, which is a common condition for people with Crohn’s. 

The colonoscopy is usually the method used to confirm Crohn’s. During a colonoscopy, your doctor will be able to view your entire colon using a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached. During this procedure, they can also take small samples of tissue (biopsy) to analyze for inflammatory cells. 

Read other Crohn's Disease FAQs here.

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Our dietitians and nutritionists build custom plans tailored to help you find relief from your GI issues. Our expertise includes: Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and IBS

“We have worked with hundreds of clients who live with GI issues such as Crohn's Disease. We know how hard it can be to live with the condition. We hope you will allow us to help you tackle your GI issue head-on."
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