Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's, and Diet
Diet and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Diet is a very important aspect of keeping Crohn's and ulcerative colitis under control, yet we need to be careful falling for all the different diets that claim amazing results. Unfortunately, even the greatest diet will not cure any inflammatory bowel disease. There is no cure for Crohn's, and although surgery to remove the entire large intestine is thought of as a cure for ulcerative colitis is not without its downfalls.
I personally had my entire colon removed after a near-fatal bout of it. Since then, I have learned a lot about my food sensitivities that had I been more aware of these issues, may have changed the course of the disease. Although it did not stop my ulcerative colitis, my other inflammatory diseases, asthma and arthritis, are much more in control now. Although even with the strictest watch on your diet, sometimes medicinal and physician help is necessary.
Drink Lots of Water
More important than any food you eat is what you drink. Whether you have constant diarrhea or constipation, water is essential. Having plenty of liquids is important as your body needs water in order to most efficiently function since the majority of your body is made up of water.
If you find that you have a lot of diarrhea with your constipation than you want to drink fluids that contain electrolytes. When your body becomes low on electrolytes, you will begin to feel sluggish and light headed. Some great choices that contain electrolytes such as Pedialyte, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.
Each person is different. How much water you need to consume depends on many factors. Your best clues are paying attention to whether your lips get chapped easily, your eyes feel dry, and if several hours have passed without urinating. With any of these cues, you can be sure that you are not receiving adequate water.
Food Sensitivity and Inflammatory Diseases
In recent years as food has become industrialized, more and more people have found themselves with inflammatory diseases, especially ulcerative colitis and Crohn's. More and more people have found that their bodies have built an intolerance to certain foods. Some of the most common are gluten, wheat, egg, and milk sensitivities. I myself have found that my body is sensitive or allergic to wheat, milk, yeast, and mushrooms. Once I cut out each of these, I found I no longer had trouble with acne, joint pain, asthma attacks, nor pouchitis, which is the irritation of the lining of my modified digestive system.
There are many ways to find out if you are sensitive to these. The first is an elimination diet. I would suggest being very regimented if you choose this approach, otherwise, you may misdiagnose your food allergies. There are blood tests that you can go to the doctor for that test for food allergies. Unfortunately, these tests will only look for one type of antigen, which is the most reactive. There are several others that can cause milder allergic reactions that manifest themselves as inflammatory issues. A third way to detect these is to talk to a doctor that tests for what is commonly known as food sensitivities.
I was able to detect my sensitivity to wheat by eliminating it from my body, but would not have found the other allergens had I not gone to a holistic doctor who tested my blood. For one, it never occurred to me to eliminate mushrooms, I did not even think to cut out yeast, and I loved milk so much I was unwilling until I saw the severity of my sensitivity on the graph.
Common Food Irritants for IBDs
Each person is going to have different food sensitivities, but there are certain foods that are irritant to all those who have an IBD, but some people are more sensitive than others. Preservatives and other chemicals can irritate even healthy digestive systems, which is why there is an increasing push for people to eat "organic" foods.
Another "food" that is a known to aggravate the digestive system is caffeine. Caffeine speeds up the digestive system, which causes an increase in bowel movements. This may benefit you if you are constipated, but very bothersome if you have diarrhea.
Role of Fiber in Diet
Fiber is an extremely important component of your diet. Although it is important to recognize when you should be eating it and when you should not. When you are in remission, it is important to increase your intake of fibrous foods such as bran, apples, and salads. Your colon is much like a muscle that needs to firm to stay healthy. By eating fibrous foods this allows your colon to be exercised and cleansed.
Ironically, what helps you remain in remission should be avoided at any notice of any ulcerative colitis or Crohn's symptoms. Both of these diseases cause tears in the lining of your intestines. By eating fibrous foods while these tears are present, you are not allowing them to be healed. The fiber brushes against them aggravating them with each passing not allowing them to heal, causing more irritation, resulting in more diarrhea or constipation and more bleeding. It’s best to stay on a low fiber diet when in a flare-up.
Don't Give Food a Bad Name Because It Made You Sick Before
Keep in mind, that just because your stomach got upset after you ate a particular food does not necessarily mean that you are sensitive to it. Most foods, especially processed foods are so complex that it is tricky to know exactly what caused a flare-up. Be careful about avoiding foods indefinitely after an irritation, because if you reacted due to bread, it could be the wheat, the yeast, or even something in the processing. Cutting out all breads could do more damage than good, as even gluten has great vitamins and it should not be cut out unless you are certain you are sensitive to it.
This is a common mistake people do that suffer from these diseases and end up restricting their diet so severely, they stop ingesting enough nutrients from food, or rather enough variety of foods. By missing certain nutrients your body may actually become sicker with these diseases because they lack a foundation to fight against flare-ups.
Don’t be afraid to try a food that previously caused you problems. You may find that it does affect your stomach one month, then not the next. The reason for this is unknown. Although if you find it irritates it after you try to put it back in your diet, there may be a possible food allergy and it should be avoided.
- “Crohn's & Colitis.” What Is Crohn's Disease | Causes of Crohn's | Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/diet-and-nutrition/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwxbzdBRCoARIsACzIK2kCyHZKIo50BzwFHGqLKTKLwbc0JiViWYpCG154rpVdxAgGQriONWUaAnQXEALw_wcB.
- Scott, Jennifer Acosta. “Top Strategies for Eating Fiber With Crohn's.” Stroke Center - EverydayHealth.com, Everyday Health, 6 Mar. 2017, www.everydayhealth.com/crohns-disease/diet/managing-dietary-fiber-with-crohns-disease/.
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© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz