10 Foods to Avoid if You Have Crohn's Disease
IBD? What not to eat
When it comes to Crohn's disease, not all foods affect people in the same way. For example, spicy food may be a problem for some, while others never have to hold the hot sauce.
That said, there some types of food you may want to steer clear of, particularly during a symptom flare-up. "You always want to make sure you're knowledgeable and informed about your own disease," says Tracie Dalessandro, a nutritionist based in Briarcliff Manor, NY, who also has Crohn's.
Here's a list of the 10 types of food most likely to be a problem.
Nuts are nutritious, but when eaten raw, most people with Crohn's won't reap the benefits of their healthy fats and high protein content.
"You can't masticate them enough to get them to a consistency that's really easy for the gut to digest," explains Dalessandro, who is a nutritional advisor to the
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America.
Like other rough and hard-to-digest foods, she adds, they can further irritate the lining of your gut, worsening your symptoms.
Fruit with skin
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but if it isn't peeled, it can cause major digestive distress for someone with Crohn's.
The same goes for vegetables with edible peels, like cucumbers. Strip them off before you eat them. In fact, some people with Crohn's find they can eat raw fruit and even some raw vegetables if they've been peeled.
In general, cooked or canned fruits and vegetables are often a better choice than raw.
Whole grains are good for everyone—except a person with Crohn's disease who's having a flare-up.
Popcorn is technically a whole grain, and it's probably among the hardest of all those grains to digest. The same goes for corn on the cob.
"Anything that's really rough to digest would possibly be detrimental and cause more symptoms and possibly slow the healing process," says Dalessandro. "That's been my experience with a lot of patients, and myself."
Chicken, fish, and other healthy foods became major nutritional no-nos once they hit the deep fat fryer.
Fried food isn't good for anyone, and its greasiness may be especially problematic for people with Crohn's, Dalessandro says. "The more you can stay away from foods like that, the better off you'll be."
It's extremely important for people with Crohn's disease to get enough protein; at least 25% of your daily calorie intake should be protein-based.
But eating fatty and cured meats, like bacon, is not the best way to add protein to your diet.
These foods offer little nutritional benefit, while their high fat content can aggravate diarrhea for some people. Instead, choose lean high-quality proteins, like fish, soy, and smooth nut butters.
During a flare, people with Crohn's should avoid foods that contain lots of seeds, such as strawberries, raspberries, and tomatoes, Dalessandro advises.
"Those things don't get digested fully and can cause more diarrhea," she explains. "You want to stay away from things that are rough on the digestive system…it's kind of like sandpaper on an open wound."
Also, skip rye bread and other baked goods that contain seeds.
Maybe it's the skin, maybe it's the seeds, or maybe it's the acidity, but many people with Crohn's find that eating tomatoes in any form worsens their symptoms, whether it's a raw tomato in a salad or spaghetti sauce.
Coffee, chocolate, and carbonated beverages
Many coffee lovers have to swear off java after getting a diagnosis of Crohn's.
"Anything with caffeine is really bad, chocolate is really bad," says Julie Novack, 44, a senior credit underwriter at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina, who has ulcerative colitis.
Novack and other people with IBD can also have trouble with caffeinated sodas, while bubbly drinks—caffeinated or no—can be triggers as well.
Use caution when drinking alcohol, as it can be a problem for some people with inflammatory bowel disease.
"If I drink too much of it or too often it will sometimes cause a flare or seems to cause a small flare," says Marge McDonald, 46, who directs the Burlington Senior Center in Massachusetts and has ulcerative colitis.
Because Crohn's disease can damage the digestive tract, it can also cause lactose intolerance, an inability to digest the sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
If dairy causes bloating, gas, or aggravates other symptoms, you may want to try soy or almond milk instead of cow's milk. Choose harder, aged cheeses like Parmesan, Romano, or cheddar instead of soft cheeses like mozzarella or ricotta.
"The harder the cheese the more aged it is, the less lactose it has in it," says Dalessandro.