There’s no shortage of diets to help control inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Unfortunately, no single diet can prevent or manage IBD symptoms for everyone.

Here are some guidelines and helpful diet tips to try if you have IBD.

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Special Diets for IBD

There is no specific diet recommended for patients with IBD as every patient’s condition and reaction to different types of food may vary. However, some dietary or lifestyle changes may help to improve symptoms. It is important to discuss any diet changes with your gastroenterologist or IBD dietitian to determine what works best for you.

Here are a few tips for modifying the texture and reducing a food particle’s size:

  • Purée your food for improved digestion
  • Cut/mince meals when appropriate
  • Choose naturally soft foods you can chew with minimal effort

What to Eat When You Have a Flare Up

When your IBD flares, or if you develop a stricture (narrowing of your intestines), choose foods that are easier to digest and avoid skins, seeds, or nuts. Softening or pureeing foods may help to improve digestion and tolerance. These are examples of foods you may want to choose:

  • White rice, pasta, or cooked wheat/rice
  • Canned or cooked fruits (remove skins or seeds) — or soft fresh fruits like bananas or melons
  • Peeled, well-cooked vegetables like potatoes, squash, or asparagus tips
  • Lean proteins like ground chicken, fish, eggs, or tofu

Make sure you hydrate with water, vegetable juices, soups, broth, or electrolyte drinks. Avoid foods that can trigger more cramping or diarrhea, such as:

  • Raw fruits with peels and seeds like apples or raspberries
  • Raw salads
  • Vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, or cauliflower
  • Whole grains like whole wheat bread, barley, or quinoa
  • Milk and dairy foods
  • Fatty, fried foods
  • Sugary foods or desserts

What to Eat When You’re in Remission

When your IBD is in remission and you’re feeling well, try to eat well too. A healthy, whole foods diet helps heal your digestive tract and reduce inflammation. Stay away from packaged, processed foods, and aim for lots of color and variety on each plate.

The Mediterranean diet is a good starting point. It’s high in:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans/legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and seeds
  • Fish

This diet includes smaller amounts of dairy, eggs, and poultry, and limits red meat and sweets. Eating this way can calm inflammation. Tailor the diet to fit your needs if there are healthy foods on the list you can’t tolerate.

With IBD, it’s important to include a dietitian as part of your IBD health care team. And always listen to your body’s response to different foods. This is a great way to learn which foods to limit and which you can eat.

To learn more about how diet can impact IBD, visit our website.

Sources

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. Special IBD Diets. Link

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. What Should I Eat? Link

Nutrients. Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Are Symptoms and Diet Linked? Link

Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology. Popular Diet Trends for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Claims and Evidence. Link

European Journal of Nutrition. Adherence to Mediterranean diet in Crohn's disease. Link

About Digestive Disorders

The UPMC Digestive Disorders Center cares for a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions and diseases, from diagnosis to treatment. Upon referral from your physician, we coordinate your testing and treatment. If you have a complicated condition, we can refer you to one of UPMC’s digestive health centers of excellence. Most of our office visits and outpatient procedures take place at UPMC Presbyterian or UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland. We also provide inpatient care at UPMC Montefiore or UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland.