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Foods that affect Crohn´s Disease

Author:   Peter Sedesse MD

Crohn´s disease is greatly affected by diet and food choices

Crohn´s disease is closely associated with food, diets, digestion and malnutrition. The symptoms, frequency of episodes and health risks of Crohn´s disease can be greatly affected by food choices and how the food is prepared before eating.  One of the most important aspects of Crohn´s disease is that each person is affected differently.  Different foods will cause different severity of symptoms in different people and some foods may produce no symptoms in one person, but have severe consequences on another person. 

Symptoms and Causes of Crohn´s disease

The most common symptoms of Crohn´s disease are diarrhea, frequent bowel movements, fever, abdominal pain and cramps, vomiting, and infrequently the appearance of blood in stool.  The most frequent and serious long term risk of Crohn´s disease is malnutrition.

Crohn´s disease is digestive disorder where the immune system causes inflammation in the digestive tract.   The inflammation usually occurs near the end of the small intestines, the beginning of the large intestines, or both.  It is also possible that the inflammation can occur in other parts of the digestive system including the mouth, esophagus or anus.

Foods that affect Crohn´s disease directly

There are two different ways that food can have an impact on the symptoms of Crohn´s disease, either by directly causing an episode or by altering the flow of foods through the digestive system which can affect the disease. Certain foods can directly cause an episode or prolong or increase the severity of an existing episode. These foods are very specific to each individual and a person suspected or, or diagnosed with Crohn´s disease should keep a daily journal of foods consumed and any symptoms that occur afterwards.

There are other foods that interfere with normal digestion in all people, and these foods can therefore greatly impact a person suffering from an episode of Crohn´s disease.

While each person with Crohn´s disease will have a personal list of foods that can cause or increase the severity of an episode, there are some foods that commonly make most Crohn´s patients lists. The most common foods among all sufferers include fatty foods, especially deep fried foods.  Red meat, especially high-fat meat also frequently is cited as a probably cause of a Crohn´s episode.  Finally, some usually healthy foods can also be problematic for people with Crohn´s disease, these include raw fruits and vegetables, along with beans and cabbage.  The link between Crohn´s and these otherwise healthy foods appears to be their high fiber content.  Finally, dairy products, especially butter is often mentioned as a possible cause.  It is important to note again that each individual is different, and many foods listed above may cause no problems at all.  It is vital to keep a personal journal and try to identify which types of food affect each individual.

Foods that alter the flow of food and affect Crohn´s disease

The other type of foods that affect Crohn´s disease are foods that alter the speed food moves through the digestive system.  Because the inflammation caused by Crohn´s disease also can change the speed at which food flows through the intestines, these food can make a bad problem worse.  The most common foods in this list include caffeine, alcohol and high fiber foods.  Foods containing these ingredients should be avoided as much as possible when the individual is not having an episode, but should be completely eliminated during a Crohn´s episode.

Foods that can help you recover after an episode of Crohn´s disease

Finally, it is important for a person to be prepared for an extended episode if they have been diagnosed already. The greatest risk of Crohn´s disease is malnutrition and in order to prevent this, a person should know where to buy liquid meals or keep them available at all times.  Symptoms of malnutrition can occur very quickly when an episode lasts longer than expected.  Probiotics are also important as they increase the amount of nutrients absorbed during digestion.  Yogurt, or other sources of probiotics should be eaten regularly.

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