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Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the bowel that can affect the gastrointestinal tract, anywhere from mouth to anus. Symptoms can include: abdominal pains, diarrhea (during a particularly bad flare up, this can include blood), vomiting and a substantial amount of weight loss.
Complications can arise during a flare up which may affect other areas of the body to include: rashes, eye inflammation, fatigue, memory loss and arthritis. It is of significant note that certain foods can inevitably cause a flare up, leaving the patient in a large amount of pain.
Whilst foods affect different people in different ways, it is always best to note what affects you, perhaps in the form of a diary, to note which foods to avoid for future consumption.
Nuts, whilst high in protein, are difficult to digest. Foods which are difficult to digest can irritate the lining of your gut, causing symptoms to flare or worsen. As there is no way to alter nuts to make digestion easier, they are better avoided altogether.
As studies have shown, eating small amounts, often, can assist in retaining energy and encourage the gut to self heal. If nuts are the perfect snack on the go, that you need to replace, you could try replacing it with a banana. Bananas provide a generous portion of potassium and are known to be easier to digest and tolerate during a flare up.
Foods with High Spice Content
Whilst some people suggest all spicy foods can affect their Crohn’s disease, there is a general consensus that foods such as curries and kebabs should be avoided due to the high fat and oil content.
Spices can cause havoc with wind retention, causing discomfort in the gut and to the patient. During a flare up, it is important to cut out all spicy foods completely from your diet, but this can be reintroduced, in moderation, if you are normally tolerant of a small amount of spicy food.
If you are a big spicy food lover, there are some recipes available that you could try when your Crohn’s disease is under control. Tandoori Halibut Kebabs are a favourite, providing a slightly spicy taste, without the heavy spices and high oil content involved.
Fruit or Vegetables with Skin
Whilst fruit and vegetables are deemed good for you, the skin on them can be extremely difficult to digest, and cause anguish to the gut. It is not the case that you should avoid fruit and vegetables altogether though. Simply remove the skin from them before you eat them to aid the gut in digesting them.
Some people can eat raw fruit and vegetables and not have any issues, but for some, it can be very painful. If you fall within the latter group, you may find that canned or cooked fruits and vegetables are the better option for you.
Dairy Products for the Dairy Intolerant
Many Crohn’s suffers discover that they have a dairy intolerance. This is because Crohn’s disease damages the digestive tract, making it difficult for the body to digest sugar found in milk and dairy products. This can cause bloating, wind or aggravation with other symptoms. You may need to test your tolerance to all dairy products including: cheese, milk, yoghurt and ice cream.
If you find that the usual dairy products are causing you issues, you could switch to Almond Milk for drinking and any harder, aged cheeses, such as parmesan and cheddar for eating. These aged cheeses contain less lactose, ensuring easier digestion.
Wheat Products for the Gluten Intolerant
Gluten intolerance can cause major problems for Crohn’s sufferers. Celiac disease and wheat allergies come under this bracket and foods that contain these products can cause bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and joint pains.
Foods containing oats and wheat, including some types of bread and cereals should be avoided. Testing can determine at which level of sensitivity you are at with any gluten intolerance.
With the help of a dietician, you can find breads that you can purchase that are gluten free and cereals which are made of uncontaminated oats, to replace those which form an important part of your meal planning.
Carbonated and High Sugared Drinks
Sugary and carbonated drinks, such as fizzy cans, should be avoided for the lactose content. Caffeine and alcohol is off the list also, unfortunately.
Caffeine triggers abdominal pains, whilst alcohol, with its acid and sugar content, can cause havoc with an already damaged bladder, whilst creating gas to make you feel uncomfortable to boot.
Alternatives would include Soy and Almond milk, water, and low sugar fruit juice. Herbal tea can be a refreshing replacement hot drink, with green tea being popular due to its healing properties.
Cured or Fatty Meats
Whilst it is very important for Crohn’s sufferers to get a lot of protein, with at least 25% of your daily intake meant to be protein based, cured and fatty meats, such as bacon, will not help your condition. The high fat content can cause abdominal pain and can aggravate diarrhoea.
If you are looking for replacements for protein within your diet, you could try fish, soy and smooth nut butters instead.
Sweet Foods Containing Lactose
Unfortunately, Crohn’s sufferers can also be prescribed with lactose intolerance. This means that anything sugary such as cakes, chocolate, sweets and desserts should be completely avoided during a flare up, as damage to the digestive tract can ensure pain and suffering when trying to digest anything sugary.
There is very little that can replace that much needed chocolate fix. There are, however, low fat/low sugar options to consider, as a treat, for times where your Crohn’s is under control. In the interim, fruit is a fabulous alternative snack. Don’t forget to peel any skin off!
Deep Fried Foods
Fried food is not particularly any good for anyone. For a Crohn’s sufferer, the high fat, grease content can trigger symptoms and cause a lot of pain. Anything that is cooked in a deep fat fryer is best avoided. If you are cooking at home, the easiest thing to do would be to replace fried food, with oven baked food instead.
If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, whilst it can be a life changing disorder to have, a management in lifestyle can mean that in most cases, you can pretty much continue with life by incorporating exercise, rest and a healthy diet into your daily regime.
By noting the foods to avoid, replacing them with some healthier alternatives, you can still enjoy your favourite foods, perhaps just in moderation or alteration. As there is no known cure for Crohn’s disease, it is important to take steps to manage your lifestyle, to ensure management of your disease and the effects on your daily life.