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Why FOOD Should be Your Weapon to Fight Crohns
Food is an important consideration in inflammatory bowel diseases because they pass through the gut as they get broken down and their nutrients absorbed. Therefore, foods can relieve or worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. The first step you need to take when using foods to treat your Crohn’s disease is to identify its food triggers. This article discusses the foods you need to avoid, their healthier substitutes and the foods you need to add to your diet to promote healing of the gut and keep you in remission.
There is still an ongoing debate over the role of food in the development and progression of Crohn’s disease.
Can foods heal, cause or worsen Crohn’s disease? There is actually no consensus from the body of scientific work done to investigate the question. However, there are solid evidences that indicate that some foods are best for patients with Crohn’s disease while some foods are to be avoided.
Perhaps the most revealing study on the effect of diet on Crohn’s disease is the clinical data on the rise of inflammatory bowel disease in Japan.
Over the last few decades, the incidence of Crohn’s disease (and ulcerative colitis) has sharply risen in Japan. This shift also coincides with increasing adoption of western diet in the country. As more Japanese eat more fatty foods and sugars, there have been a corresponding rise in the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease.
Other studies also support the fact that inflammatory bowel diseases are increasingly diagnosed in countries with rapidly expanding urban populations that are also eating more westernized diets.
On the other hand, Crohn’s disease is rare in societies whose diets are still made up of mostly natural foods and little refined foods.
Because many people with Crohn’s disease are also lactose-intolerant, milk and dairy products are often bad for the inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, finding a milk alternative is important.
Almond milk is one such alternative. It is made from the ground almond and because it has a low fiber content, it is tolerable for the sensitive gastrointestinal tract affected by Crohn’s disease.
Like regular milk, almond milk is rich in vitamins D and E. However, it contains no saturated fat and cholesterol. Therefore, it is actually a healthier choice than regular milk.
Because almond milk does not contain calcium, it should be fortified with as much calcium as needed.
Almond milk packs fewer calories than regular milk. However, many almond milk products sold in stores are sweetened. Sweetening may add more calories to the milk and sweeteners are generally to be avoided by those with Crohn’s disease. Therefore, unsweetened almond milk is the preferred choice.
Eggs are now the darling of health experts and they are a ready, inexpensive source of protein.
Protein is not the only essential nutrient found in eggs that Crohn’s disease patients need. Egg is also a good source of dietary iron and vitamin D.
Because iron deficiency and vitamin D deficiency are common among people with Crohn’s disease, regular consumption of eggs is a good way of avoiding these nutritional deficiencies. In addition, eggs promote the absorption of other important vitamins such as vitamins A, E and K.
Dietary fiber is both good and bad for people with Crohn’s disease.
On one hand, the right fiber can be filling, prevent overeating and even stop diarrhea, a common symptom of Crohn’s disease. On the other hand, the wrong fiber can worsen diarrhea and cause abdominal pain and cramps.
Oatmeal is the right kind of fiber. It is made up of soluble fiber, the kind easily broken down in the body.
Although soluble fibers also absorb water just like insoluble fibers (such as fibers found in nuts, fruits and vegetables), oatmeal is made of soluble fibers already softened in liquid.
The key to taking fibers in Crohn’s disease is ingesting them with lots of water. Oatmeal provides such combination in the form of a ready meal.
Therefore, oatmeal is not only safe in Crohn’s disease, it can actually soothe the gastrointestinal tract. Oatmeal is also a good source of slowly released carbohydrates. Therefore, it can help sustain energy levels while reducing food cravings.
Fatty fish such as salmon is especially good for people with Crohn’s disease for a number of reasons.
Salmon represents a source of lean protein. It also contains vitamin D, a vitamin that Crohn’s disease patients especially need.
In addition, the dietary fat from salmon improves the absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K.
Lastly, salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and preliminary studies suggest that they can help reduce inflammation in Crohn’s disease.
People living with Crohn’s disease refrain more from eating vegetables when they learn that their fiber contents can worsen the inflammatory bowel disease. However, vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that should not be removed from one’s diet.
One way to still gain the nutritional benefits of vegetable while avoiding its fiber content is with vegetable soups.
By processing vegetables in a blender, it is possible to puree them and strain the nutrients out of them.
Examples of vegetables that can be pureed in this way include pumpkin, carrot, parsnip and squash.
Besides vegetables, certain beans can also be pureed in the same way. For example, lentil and chickpea beans can be blended into liquid form.
Although people with Crohn’s disease are discouraged from taking fruits, there are definitely digestible fruits that contain more soluble fibers than insoluble fibers. And these can be safely eaten even during episodes of Crohn’s disease flare-ups.
Tropical fruits are easy-to-digest and some of them are actually easy on the gut even while packing a lot of essential nutrients.
Examples of tropical fruits that can be eaten by people with Crohn’s disease are banana, mango, papaya and avocado.
Papaya contains papain, a digestive enzyme that speeds up the breakdown of proteins. The fruit is also rich in potassium and vitamins A, C and B9. Avocado is also rich in potassium, vitamin E and B vitamins.
Where nuts are to be avoided by people with Crohn’s disease, nut butters are highly recommended.
The butters made from nuts such as almond, cashew and peanut do not contain the insoluble fibers of nuts. Much like pureed vegetables, they offer the best of the food without the hard-to-digest fibers.
Therefore, nut butters are excellent sources of proteins, niacin and vitamin E. In addition, nut butters pack a lot of calories. This means that eating a small amount can provide a lot of ready calories. Therefore, nut butters are especially good for people with Crohn’s disease who are malnourished, losing weight but only have small appetites.
White rice is the go-to carbohydrate for anyone suffering from stomach discomfort. This is because they are easily digested and a ready source of carbohydrates.
However, it is important not to let simple carbs such as white rice be the main source of calories in a diet for Crohn’s disease.
White meats are poultry meat such as chicken and turkey. They are lean meats and good sources of proteins.
These meats are also easy on the stomach and can be effortlessly digested.
Nuts and seeds are rough foods. They can easily irritate the injured, raw and inflamed gastrointestinal tracts of people with Crohn’s disease.
Nuts may be nutritious but they cannot be mashed down into uniform pulps that can be easily digested. Because masticating raw nuts into a smooth consistency is impossible, it is best to avoid them.
Seeds, especially those from fruits and baked goods, can also worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
Unlike nuts, seeds are not nutritional powerhouses. Therefore, they can be totally avoided. On the other hand, the nutrients in nuts can be obtained by taking nut butters.
Seeds in fruits are not the only reasons people with Crohn’s disease should avoid fruits. Fibrous fruits are especially to be avoided in Crohn’s disease.
However, just as importantly, fruit skins can also worsen Crohn’s disease. Fruit skins usually contain irritants that can cause more damage to the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, peeling off the skins from fruits can make them tolerable to some Crohn’s disease patients.
In place of raw fruits, these patients should take fruit juices or canned fruits.
Fruits with high acid content are also be avoided. Increasing the acidity of the gastrointestinal tract is simply a way to promote the formation of deep ulcers and worsen intestinal bleeding. Therefore, acidic fruits such as tomatoes and also unripe fruits should be skipped.
Cured and fried meat is perhaps the worst source of protein for people with Crohn’s disease.
The high fat and salt content of cured meat can irritate the gastrointestinal lining. This can worsen diarrhea in Crohn’s disease or even cause intestinal bleeding.
In the same way, fried foods can irritate the gastrointestinal lining. Fried foods are greasy and filled with trans fats. These not only make them bad for general health but they provide the right environment for bacterial overgrowth in the gut and for further inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
Milk and dairy products have a special place on the list of foods to be avoided in Crohn’s disease. This is because lactose intolerance is a common condition among people with inflammatory bowel disease.
People with lactose intolerant cannot properly digest the sugar (lactose) found in milk and dairy products. Therefore, milk can cause bloating, gas and possible abdominal cramps.
Improperly digested lactose can also provide an ideal growth environment for invading bacteria in the gut.
This can quickly worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease as the immune system and bacteria wrestle in a cycle of tissue damage and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
Because people with Crohn’s disease are prone to have difficulty swallowing and loss of appetite, it is common for them to seek to substitute solid foods with liquids. Therefore, drinks are an important consideration in the diets of people with Crohn’s disease.
Drinks to be avoided include all forms of caffeinate drinks, carbonated beverages and alcohol.
Caffeine promotes water loss in the body. It is also mildly acidic. Therefore, it can easily irritate the mucosal lining of the gut.
Alcohol is even harsher on the gastrointestinal tract. It can shrivel the gastrointestinal mucosa and worsen intestinal ulcers and bleeding.
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