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Photo of Dr. Keeley & Kaycie Lindemann

Some of the biggest questions patients have about their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, is regarding diet and how it impacts their IBD. What can I eat? What should I avoid? Will some foods make my Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis worse or trigger a flare?

At MNGI Digestive Health, our care providers take a team approach to treating all our patients. When our gastroenterologists and dietitians team up to create a care plan to treat your IBD, you’ll have more resources available to live a healthier life.

Dr. Keeley, a MNGI gastroenterologist specializing in IBD, and Kaycie Lindemann, a MNGI registered dietitian, have put together guidelines you can follow when trying to decide which foods to enjoy & which foods to stay away from if you are an IBD patient.

Consult your doctor before you make any major lifestyle or diet changes. Some suggestions may not work for all patients. Always trust your doctor’s recommendations.

Patients with known strictures or active Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis symptoms should follow a low fiber diet. It is specifically recommended that you reduce intake of fruit and vegetables with skins and seeds, raw leafy greens, whole nuts, whole seeds, and whole grains.

Alternatives in these food groups that may be well tolerated include:

  • Refined breads, pastas, and crackers
  • White rice
  • Fully cooked skinless, seedless, non-cruciferous vegetables such as asparagus tips, skinless sweet potatoes, or cooked carrots
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe and honeydew melons
  • Canned peaches
  • Peanut or sunflower seed butter

Alcohol and caffeinated drinks can also be triggers for people who are experiencing active symptoms. You may benefit from decreasing consumption of both of these. Some may have issues with lactose digestion too.  Lactose is found primarily in:

  • Milk
  • Soft cheeses such as cottage cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurts

Cheese and butter are relatively low in lactose and still may be tolerated. Thankfully, there are several lactose-free products available in the stores today. You can find examples of lactose-free foods, products, and beverages on the MNGI Digestive Health Registered Dietitian’s Pinterest page.

IBD can impact nutrient digestion and absorption, which puts people at risk for malnutrition. Signs of malnutrition include: reduced food intake, weight loss, fatigue, weakness, muscle loss, and more.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it’s important that you follow-up with your provider or registered dietitian promptly. A Registered Dietitian can help you to brainstorm ideas and devise an appropriate plan to make sure your nutritional needs are being met with foods and beverages you tolerate.

When in remission, trying to eat a balanced, nutritious diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables is recommended; think all colors of the rainbow! In addition, try to include lean proteins, fiber-containing grains, and calcium-rich foods.

When it comes to fats, aim to include more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your eating patterns, which are found in:

  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • *Fatty fish (i.e. albacore tuna, lake trout, herring, sardines, and salmon)
  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seeds

*Children and pregnant women should avoid eating fatty fish that are known to have high levels of mercury contamination (i.e. mackerel, swordfish).

Try to reduce the amount of saturated fats and trans fats in your diet.

Saturated fats are found in the following:

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Lard
  • Cream
  • Poultry with the skin
  • Higher fat beef, lamb, and pork
  • Fried foods
  • Plant-based oils like palm kernel oil & coconut oil

Keep a look out for trans fats on your product labels! They are referred to as “partially hydrogenated oils” and can be found in some fried foods, baked goods, and processed foods.

If you have ulcerative colitis, it is beneficial to also increase the amount of omega-3- fatty acids in the diet, with increased fish intake.

To explore more food- and nutrition-related suggestions and tips for IBD, request an appointment with a MNGI physician and learn more about dietitian visits online or call (612) 871-1145.

For more information about your diet if you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, view the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s website!