You can still enjoy what you eat if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Bland foods may help when you have a flare. But as you recover, eat a well-balanced variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. Staying on a bland diet, eating only foods like applesauce and saltines, can slow your recovery. You need calories, protein, and other nutrients for your body to heal.
Looking for a zesty main dish that's IBD-friendly? Try orange cranberry chicken. With 25 grams of protein, it's dairy-free and low in fat. Pair it with brown rice, a healthy whole grain that won't give you too much fiber.
Do some foods seem to set off your symptoms? Take note.
Apps make easy. Use your smartphone to record what you ate and how you felt afterward. After a few weeks, you'll know your triggers.
IBD can put the natural, healthy bacteria living in your GI tract out of balance. Get a natural boost with the probiotics found in many yogurts -- check the label. Or try kefir, a tangy fermented drink that's also full of probiotics.
Cut out any of your usual triggers. You may want to avoid beans, whole-grain or multigrain breads, fruits, vegetables like cabbage or broccoli, and fatty or fried foods. Peel vegetables and fruits before you eat them; it may help. In addition to safe foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, you need protein, too, like chicken, ground beef, or tofu. It will keep your strength up and help you heal. Alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and juices may upset your stomach.
For a lot of people with IBD, meal size matters. If you eat too much at once, it can trigger symptoms. Instead of three big meals a day, go for five smaller ones: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. Keep portions about the size of your fist. Small meals also help with cramping, a common problem if you have IBD.
You can still have fun dining out with friends despite your IBD. Even though you're not in the kitchen, you still have control. Ask the waiter or chef specific questions about how your food is prepared. You can also call a restaurant ahead of time to check, or look at the menu online, so you know what to expect. It's good to carry snacks with you for times when you can't find anything on the menu that fits the bill.
Raw fruits and vegetables can irritate your stomach. If IBD symptoms are acting up, avoid them. You can lightly roast these foods to break down the fiber. Your meal will be easier to digest, and you'll still get loads of healthy nutrients from the sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, and other veggies.
A lot of people with IBD are lactose intolerant -- their bodies can't break down protein in milk products. But they still need key nutrients in dairy, such as calcium. Soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and other options may be easier to digest. Most are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Try this ulcerative colitis-friendly version of a favorite appetizer, deviled eggs. Eggs have protein and iron and are easy to digest. To cut down on fat, this version swaps cottage cheese for some of the yolk.
After a flare, you may want to stick only to your "safe" foods. That's understandable. But don't get stuck. Once you feel well, add one new food a day. See how it goes. If you don't react well to a food, cross it off your list. But you may be happily surprised. There are probably a lot more foods that you can handle than foods you can't.
If you have IBD, you may be more likely to get dehydrated, especially when you have symptoms. Stay hydrated. Sip your drinks. Gulping them down can cause uncomfortable gas. Be careful with alcohol and caffeinated or carbonated drinks. All three can make you dehydrated or trigger symptoms of the disease.
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- Aline Charabaty,MD, assistant professor of medicine, director, IBD Center, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington DC; expert, Crohn's amp; Colitis Foundation of America.
- Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America: "Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis: Diet and Nutrition Q&A," "Diet and IBD," "Living with Crohn's and Colitis," "Nutrition and IBD."
- UCSF Medical Center: "Nutrition Tips for Inflammatory Bowel Disease."
- UpToDate: "Management of Mild to Moderate Ulcerative Colitis, "Nutrition and dietary interventions in adults with inflammatory bowel disease."
- Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Director of Nutrition, WebMD.
- UpToDate: "Nutrition and Dietary Interventions in Adults with Inflammatory Bowel Disease."