Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the bowels; it is caused by an immune reaction against the intestinal tract. Because it afflicts the digestive system, Crohn’s disease can affect what, when, and how a sufferer eats. Although each case is unique, there are some common features to the dietary habits of people living with Crohn’s.
Getting Vital Nutrients from Vitamins and Supplements
Because the small intestine is inflamed, it can’t digest food and absorb nutrients as efficiently. To avoid malnutrition, people afflicted by Crohn’s disease have to make up this deficiency, often in the form of dietary supplements and special vitamins. These deliver the necessary minerals and nutrients in a concentrated dose that’s more biologically available for uptake in afflicted organ.
Eating Without an Appetite
Because their autoimmune system is attacking their small intestine, Crohn’s patients often don’t feel very hungry, and avoiding food can prevent painful symptoms. This tendency can quickly lead to malnutrition, which brings a whole host of other complications. Crohn’s patients need to actively maintain a schedule for their food intake, even when they don’t feel like it or don’t want to. They may also eat several small snacks or even just “graze” throughout the day. This helps them make up for their poor nutrient uptake and avoids putting lots of unnecessary pressure on their small intestine at any one time.
Constantly Sipping Water
Because diarrhea is part of the Crohn’s package, sufferers can easily become dehydrated. Dehydration can interfere with kidney function and cause cognitive problems like dizziness. It’s recommended that people afflicted with Crohn’s disease drink one half ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. They often do so gradually, in small but frequent amounts; chugging whole glasses can introduce air into the digestive tract, causing additional pain and discomfort.
Eating an Experimental, Patchwork Diet
There is no proof that diet affects the course of Crohn’s disease, but patients can often identify certain foods that trigger their symptoms. Naturally, these trigger foods and substances vary from person to person, but an attentive eater can easily identify certain things that worsen their bowel distress.These foods and beverages range widely. Some Crohn’s sufferers can’t tolerate alcohol in any form, while others find that caffeine and carbonated beverages cause digestive issues. Some can’t eat dairy, while others experience problems with other fatty foods. Still others find that gas-inducing foods like beans, broccoli and cabbage can trigger the onset of symptoms. Additional potential distressers include red meat, whole grain, spicy foods and even raw vegetables and fruit.The only way to find out of any of these (or other) foods will induce Crohn’s symptoms is to try them. Keeping a food journal will help keep track of what a suffer has eaten and how it has affected their condition. It’s also important to experiment; raw carrots may irritate their innards, but steamed carrots might be perfectly acceptable. Finding the right diet is an ongoing, unique journey for each Crohn’s patient.
Occasionally Omitting Fiber and High-Residue Foods
To help ease intestinal pain, some Crohn’s patients choose foods that result in smaller quantities of stool. Some Crohn’s patients have mitigated their symptoms by consuming a liquid diet. In addition to helping prevent dehydration, the liquid diet reduces pressure on the bowels and gives the small intestine a much-needed break, especially during a flare. These are often temporary measures; once symptoms have subsided, patients can usually resume their normal diet.Living with Crohn’s disease will probably mean giving up certain eating habits. While we may be sorry to bid adieu to fried chicken, taking responsibility for one’s diet is a major component in managing the ailment. Doing so can drastically mitigate symptoms of Crohn’s disease and thereby improve a sufferer’s health and quality of life.