10 Foods to Avoid if You Have Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic condition where your intestines are inflamed. Scientists are not sure what causes Crohn's disease, but your diet can make symptoms worse. However, not all foods affect people in the same way. For example, spicy food can worsen symptoms for some, while others never have those problems.

In general, though, there are some foods you may want to avoid if you have Crohn's disease, particularly during a symptom flare-up. "You always want to make sure you're knowledgeable and informed about your own disease," said Tracie Dalessandro, a nutritionist based in Briarcliff Manor, NY, who also has Crohn's.


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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," said Dalessandro, nutritional advisor to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America.

Like other rough and hard-to-digest foods, Dalessandro added, they can further irritate the lining of your gut, worsening your symptoms.

Fruit Skin

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An apple peel can cause major digestive distress for someone with Crohn's. The same goes for vegetables with edible peels, like cucumbers. This is because the peel contains insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water and is hard to digest.

In general, cooked or canned fruits and vegetables are often a better choice than raw. However, if you want to eat these vegetables, make sure to peel them before eating. Some people with Crohn's find they can eat raw fruit and even some raw vegetables if they've been peeled. In fact, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends treating IBS with soluble fiber, which occurs naturally in the flesh of fruits and vegetables.


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Whole grains are generally good for everyone's digestive health—except if you have Crohn's disease and are having a flare-up. Popcorn is technically a whole grain, and it may be 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," Dalessandro said. "That's been my experience with a lot of patients, and myself."

Fried Food

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Fried food isn't good for anyone, and its greasiness may be especially problematic for people with Crohn's, Dalessandro said. "The more you can stay away from foods like that, the better off you'll be."

Cured Meat

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It's extremely important for people with Crohn's disease to eat enough protein; you should be eating 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation.

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 proteins like fish, soy, and smooth nut butter.


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During a flare, avoid foods that contain lots of seeds, such as strawberries, raspberries, and tomatoes. Also, skip rye bread and other baked goods that contain seeds.

"Those things don't get digested fully and can cause more diarrhea," Dalessandro explained. "You want to stay away from things that are rough on the digestive system…it's kind of like sandpaper on an open wound."


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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. These can occur whether you eat a raw tomato in a salad or spaghetti sauce.

Coffee, Chocolate, and Carbonated Beverages

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You may have to reduce your coffee intake if you have Crohn's. "Anything with caffeine is really bad, chocolate is really bad," said Julie Novack, 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. Bubbly drinks—caffeinated or not—can be triggers as well.

If you find yourself tired without caffeine, try some alternative methods like aromatherapy or exercise instead.


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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," said Marge McDonald, director of the Burlington Senior Center in Massachusetts who has ulcerative colitis.


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Because Crohn's disease can damage the digestive tract, it can also cause lactose intolerance, and 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," Dalessandro said.

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