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Crohn's Disease

Crohn's Disease

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Crohn's disease (also called ileitis or enteritis) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, although it typically occurs in the lower part of the small intestine (ileum). The symptoms of Crohn's disease fluctuate in severity and, not unlike irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, these symptoms include abdominal pain, commonly in the lower right area, diarrhea, rectal bleeding and fever.

The Impact of Crohn’s Disease

About 1 in 5 cases of Crohn's disease has a family history. Patients with Crohn's disease often tend to suffer from dietary nutritional deficiencies (eg. iron-deficiency anemia) and malnourishment. The precise cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, although (like IBS and diverticulitis) the high incidence of Crohn's disease among people who eat a refined Western diet may be a significant factor. In addition, recent research indicates the involvement of a genetic defect which causes the body to attack its own intestinal tissue. Patients with Crohn's disease may go into remission, but there is no cure.

Diet, Nutrition and Crohn's Disease

As stated, a common health consequence of Crohn's disease is nutritional deficiency of calories and protein, as well as vitamins (e.g., vitamin B-complex, C, and D) and minerals (e.g., magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc). Such malnourishment may be caused by inadequate dietary intake, or inadequate absorption while passing through the digestive tract. A heathy diet for Crohn's disease must take these factors into account.

Dietary Treatment of Crohn's Disease

Treatment for Crohn's disease typically aims to relieve inflammation, regulate nutritional deficiencies, and alleviate abdominal pain and diarrhea. Treatment typically includes anti-inflammatory drugs, nutrition supplements, or even surgery.

What is The Best Diet for Crohn's disease?

There is no single effective diet for Crohn's disease which will reduce symptoms for all patients, although some dietary research indicates that food intolerances have a major impact. Many Crohn's disease sufferers cite the following problems foods which are worth eliminating altogether from the diet: grains, (eg. wheat, oats, barley and rye), yeast, dairy foods, nuts, raw fruit, shellfish and relishes.

Other patients have reported a reduction in symptoms of Crohn's disease after following a diet free of milk, alcohol, hot spices, and insoluble fiber. Otherwise, most dietitians with experience of Crohn's disease simply recommend a healthy balanced diet free of any foods that aggravate symptoms. 

Elimination Diets May Help Alleviate Crohn's Disease

Evidence is mounting that food intolerance is an important factor in Crohn's disease. In fact, according to some surveys, up to 50 percent of Crohn's disease sufferers have benefited from medically supervised elimination/exclusion diets. For specific information about trying an elimination diet plan to relieve Crohn's disease, consult your doctor.

It’s important to use a doctor’s guidance when choosing and following an elimination diet plan. The reason is that while they can be highly beneficial, they must be followed precisely in order to be effective. Deviation from the rules in any way can eliminate many or all the potential benefits.

Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin E in Diet

Recent research shows that omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (eg. in oily fish) reduce bowel inflammation. In addition, some dietitians recommend increased vitamin E, from wheatgerm and leafy green vegetables.

General Dietary Suggestions for Crohn's Disease

Eat more foods that are high in soluble fiber - like, oats, apples, pears and rice; eat regular chicken and fish (esp. oily fish) for protein; eat all other fruits and vegetables (esp. green leafy vegetables) you can tolerate. Eat fewer dairy foods, fewer refined carbs, and less wheat. Reduce your intake of coffee and alcohol. 

Crohn’s Disease will never feel like you’re on vacation at luxury villa rentals in Mexico, but by talking to your doctor and making the right changes to your diet, you can ease the symptoms and often keep them from flaring up.

More Information About Crohn's Disease

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, Inc.
Phone: 1–800–932–2423 or 212–685–3440

Pediatric Crohn's & Colitis Association, Inc.
Phone: 617–489–5854