Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the umbrella term for inflammation of the digestive tract, which encompasses two conditions: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In ulcerative colitis, the large intestine is affected, while Crohn’s disease can affect any area of the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease may also cause abnormal openings, known as fistulas, which are not seen in ulcerative colitis. Both conditions may lead to diarrhea and the need for surgery.
One major aspect of living with IBD is making dietary choices that reduce the risk of a flare-up. While no particular diet has been able to prevent or cure IBD, certain dietary approaches may help control symptoms. Each patient experiences symptoms differently and should work with their healthcare provider to make informed choices, but here are some basic recommendations to consider.
Identify Problem Foods
Sometimes, patients are advised to avoid entire food groups. Yet, since everyone experiences symptoms differently, there’s no need to steer clear of foods unless you know they’ve caused trouble in the past. An effective way to identify trigger foods is to keep a food journal. Eating a variety of foods is important to giving your body an ample supply of nutrients, but if a certain food can be linked to worsening symptoms, it’s likely best to avoid it and find the same nutrients elsewhere.
Try Small, Frequent Meals
Smaller, more frequent meals are often easier to digest, and may therefore be less likely to cause diarrhea. Using this approach is especially beneficial during flare-ups.
Consider a Low-Residue Diet After Flare-Ups
If you’ve recently had a flare-up, a low-residue diet may be easier for your digestive tract to tolerate. Residue refers to food that hasn’t been digested. The objective of a low-residue diet is to reduce the number of daily bowel movements, which will in turn alleviate diarrhea and stomach cramps. This diet minimizes high-fiber foods and instead focuses on refined carbohydrates, cooked potatoes without skin, and ripe bananas.
Get Your Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce oxidative stress and have an anti-inflammatory effect, which may help to control symptoms. If you tolerate them well, try to regularly incorporate sources of these foods into your diet, which include mackerel and salmon.
Ease In After a Flare
After a flare-up, it’s a good idea to start with liquids that are gentle on your digestive system, then reintroduce solids slowly. Diluted juices, applesauce, and oatmeal are good starting points. You may then gradually start having chicken or turkey, eggs, pasta or rice, and bread.
During and immediately after flares, your body may only be taking in limited nutrients. If your doctor approves of it, consider taking a supplement to prevent any deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals.
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