Chron’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It usually affects the intestines, but can occur from the mouth to the rectum.
The exact cause of Chron’s disease is unknown but is often linked to a problem with the body’s immune system response. With Chron’s disease, the immune system can’t tell the difference between normal body tissue and foreign substances: this is what leads to chronic inflammation. It is also known as an autoimmune disorder.
The disease can occur at any age, however it usually occurs in people between 15-35 years old. Chron’s disease unfortunately has no cure. Once the disease begins, it tends to fluctulate. Inflammatory bowel disease affects approximately 500,000 to 2 million people in the United States. Men and women are affected equally. Americans of Jewish European descent are 4 to 5 times more likely to develop IBD than the general population. If a person has a relative with the disease, his/her risk of developing the disease is estimated to be at least 10 times that of the general population and 30 times greater if the relative with Crohn’s disease is a sibling.
Symptoms: Common symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Less common symptoms are rectal bleeding, liver inflammation, swollen gums, and ulcers.
Complications: obstruction of the small intestine, abscesses, fistulae, and intestinal bleeding, painful eye conditions, painful red raised spots on legs.
- Inflammatory bowel disease can make it hard to get the nutrients you need.
- It is important to eat a healthy, varied diet to help you keep your weight up and stay strong.
- Some foods can make symptoms worse. Not eating these foods may help reduce your symptoms.
- No one diet is right for everyone with an inflammatory bowel disease. Keep a food diary to find out which foods cause problems for you. Then you can avoid those foods and choose others that supply the same nutrients.
- Because you may not be absorbing all the nutrients from the food you eat, you will need to eat a high-calorie, high-protein diet. This may be easier to do if you eat regular meals plus 2 or 3 snacks each day.
- You may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements to help you get the nutrients you need.
Common food problems:
- Dairy products for people who are lactose intolerant.
- High-fiber foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Often people have the most problems with gas-producing foods, such as beans, cabbage, broccoli, and onions, or foods with hulls, such as seeds, nuts, and corn.
- High-fat foods, such as fried foods, butter and margarine, mayonnaise, peanut butter, nuts, ice cream, and fatty cuts of red meat.
- Spicy foods.
- Foods with caffeine, such as chocolate and coffee.
- Carbonated drinks.
*Important * What you eat does not increase the inflammation that causes your disease, but some types of foods, such as high-fiber fruits and vegetables, may make your symptoms worse. This is especially true during a flare-up. As a result, you may be tempted not to eat these foods at all. But that can make it hard to get the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
During a flare-up, avoid or reduce foods that make symptoms worse. But instead of cutting out a whole group of high-nutrient foods, try replacing them with healthy choices.
- Choose dairy products that are low in lactose, such as yogurt or hard cheeses like cheddar. Or try drinking lactose-reduced milk.
- If you are having fat in your stools, choose low-fat foods instead of high-fat ones. For instance, some cuts of red meat have a lot of fat. A low-fat choice would be lean beef, poultry, or fish, such as cod. Instead of frying foods, try baking or broiling them.
- Cook fruits and vegetables without skins, or seeds. Try different ways of preparing them, such as steaming, stewing, or baking. Peel and seed fresh fruits and vegetables if these bother you, or choose canned varieties.
- Eat a varied, nutritious diet that is high in calories and protein.
- Try eating 3 meals plus 2 or 3 snacks a day. It may be easier to get more calories if you spread your food intake throughout the day.
- Take vitamin and mineral supplements if your doctor recommends them.
- Try adding high-calorie liquid supplements, such as Ensure Plus or Boost Plus, if you have trouble keeping your weight up.
- Drink plenty of fluids. This can help you avoid dehydration, kidney problems, and gallstones.
- See your doctor or dietitian if your diet feels too limited or you are losing weight.