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Crohn's Nutrition Know-how

Crohn's and Your Diet

People with Crohn's disease (CD) often have a lack of appetite. In addition, CD is associated with diarrhea and poor absorption of necessary nutrients. This can affect Crohn's patients' ability to receive the daily nutrition needed for good health and healing.

Find a Crohn's Diet That Works for You

For some people a diet high in fat (like fried foods or fatty red meat), dairy, or certain types of fiber may make their symptoms worse. On the other hand, most experts agree that eating high-protein foods and drinking plenty of fluids can be beneficial for people with CD. You may want to consult a dietitian for tips on how to stay nutritionally healthy. Check with your healthcare professional to find out about specific dietary guidelines before making any changes to what you eat, and check with your doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.

Start With the Basics

A healthy, well balanced diet is always a good choice for people with CD. No special diet has been proven effective for preventing or treating CD, but it is very important that people who have Crohn's follow a nutritious diet and avoid any foods that seem to worsen symptoms. There are no known consistent dietary rules to follow that will improve a person's symptoms.

MyPyramid was released by the USDA in 2005 as a guideline for healthy nutrition. Obviously as a CD patient you must take into account any food sensitivities you have, but MyPyramid provides a good place to start. It stresses activity and moderation along with a proper mix of food groups in people's diets. MyPyramid contains 8 divisions. The 6 food groups of the pyramid are:

  • Grains, recommending that at least half of grains consumed be whole grains
  • Vegetables, emphasizing dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and dry beans and peas
  • Fruits, emphasizing variety and deemphasizing fruit juices
  • Oils, recommending fish, nut, and vegetables sources
  • Milk, a category that includes other dairy products
  • Meat and beans, emphasizing low-fat and lean meats such as fish, as well as more beans, peas, nuts, and seeds

There are 2 other categories:

  • Physical activity, represented by a person climbing steps on the pyramid, with at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day recommended
  • Discretionary calories, represented by the uncolored tip of the pyramid, including items such as candy, alcohol, or additional food from any other group
Basic Food Groups

Chart courtesy of National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture.

Below is an additional resource you can use to research the nutritional value of the foods you eat.

USDA National Nutrient Database and Nutrient Lists

Nutrient Data Laboratory, ARS, USDA
The USDA's online searchable database lets you look up the nutritional value of thousands of foods.

Want to find out which foods are high or low in a nutrient? See lists for a number of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and selected antioxidants and phytochemicals. The site provides lists with foods in alphabetical order as well as in descending order (high to low) by nutrient content.