Healing Foods for IBD: Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are types of inflammatory bowel diseases. Symptoms include gastrointestinal (GI) bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, constipation and diarrhea. The intestines become inflamed with IBD which also make it difficult to digest food and absorb nutrients. The lack of enough nutrients can lead to malnutrition, anemia and weight loss.

A well-balanced diet is important for acquiring the essential nutrients necessary in maintaining good health. Choosing fresh whole foods over deep-fried, fast foods and processed foods is critical with IBD. These types of foods can irritate the bowels and exacerbate conditions. Other foods and drinks to avoid include alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, sugars, most dairy products (except plain yogurt), red meat, gluten, whole-grains, wheat flours, seeds and nuts, lentils and legumes, corn or corn-products, high-fibre foods and spicy foods.

Low-fibre foods can help ease the digestion process and allow more nutrients in the foods to be absorbed. High-fiber foods that are best to avoid especially during flare-ups include whole-grains, brown rice, dried fruits, raw vegetables, red meats, lentils, legumes / beans, seeds and nuts. Low-fiber foods include simple breads without whole-grains or seeds, white rice, fresh fruit purées or juices, vegetable purées or juices and white tender meats.

Gluten-reduced and gluten-free foods may also be beneficial for people suffering with IBD since gluten can be difficult to digest with compromised bowel function. High gluten foods to avoid include foods and drinks that contain wheat, rye and barley; as well processed foods with refined white flours. Reducing grains from the diet is recommended.

High-calorie and high-protein diets may be necessary for people that experience weight loss with IBD. Compromised digestive systems absorb less calories and protein along with the other essential nutrients in food. Healthy high-calorie food sources include smooth nut and seed butters, yogurt, bananas, yogurt fruit smoothies, guacamole, avocados, potatoes, rice, chia seeds and quinoa. Healthy high- protein food sources include lean white meats like poultry, rabbit and cold-water fish; as well eggs, tofu, yogurt, steamed spinach, cooked green peas, quinoa, legumes, avocados, oats and smooth nut and seed butters.

Protein powders and greens superfood powders are excellent for helping to introduce more calories, protein and vital nutrients into a person’s diet who is experiencing deficiencies. It is important to not take supplements more than their recommended dosage as too much can be toxic in some nutrients. To determine if a person is experiencing any serious deficiencies, either a blood analysis or hair analysis can be done. With specific nutrient deficiencies whole food supplements and beneficial whole foods can be added to the menu. A dietician can organize a balanced meal-plan that can include specific foods to help offset any deficiencies.

Omega-3 fatty acids help to regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. Adding fish to the menu at least twice a week will offer the minimum recommendations of omega-3 to the diet. The best sources for omega-3 include cold-water fish such as mackerel, wild salmon, rainbow trout, sardines, clams and crab. Other good sources for omega-3 include eggs, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seed.

Ginger is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that has been used for thousands of years as an aid to ease digestion and cramping. Fresh ginger root can be peeled, sliced, steeped in hot water and enjoyed as a tea for immediate relief from GI symptoms and abdominal pain.

Probiotic supplements and plain unsweetened yogurt have also proved to be beneficial in reducing inflammation. Yogurt has “good” bacteria called probiotics that have shown to significantly help protect against IBD inflammatory conditions. Probiotic supplements can be found in the refrigeration unit at any health food store.

How your food is prepared can also greatly influence the digestion process and how easily the nutrients in the foods are absorbed. Steamed and puréed foods help breakdown foods for easier digestion, which in-turn reduces flare-ups. When the digestion system is relaxed and foods are already broken down, more vital nutrients and calories can be absorbed. Chewing foods more thoroughly can also help foods to get broken down better for easier digestion.

Digestive aids can be taken before eating large meals to assist in the digestion of foods. Digestive aids can be found in capsule form at any health food store. Pineapple and papaya are natural digestive aids that can be beneficial when prepared with some foods. Eating less food more often is also recommended, as large meals can lead to bloating, cramping and flare-ups.

Broccoli and plantains have been found to help stop the growth of Crohn’s disease and colitis according to an interesting study conducted by scientists at the University of Liverpool in England, Linkoping University in Sweden and at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and published in the journal ‘Gut’. According to the study, the fibres of broccoli and plantains behave as blockers, hindering the e-coli virus that can infect the intestinal tract in several stages of these disorders.

Carrots, squash, cantaloupe, bell peppers and dark leafy greens are powerful antioxidants as well high in vitamin A carotenes. Antioxidants protect the body from cell damage and aging; as well it helps to regulate body inflammation and boost the immune system. Vitamin A carotenes are also powerful immune boosters that have strong anti-cancer properties.

Drinking a minimum of 8 to 10 large glasses of purified water daily can assist in cleansing the system and help with digestion. Water should be avoided while eating though as it can interrupt the digestion process and not allow foods to be broken down and absorbed as efficiently. It is recommended to wait at least 10 minutes after eating before drinking any great amounts of water.

Taking a walk 15 minutes after eating also aids in digestion. Studies have shown that the digestive process is sped up as well blood sugar levels decreased when a 15-minute walk is taken shortly after eating. It is suggested that walking stimulates the midsection, thus stimulating the digestive system.

Food sensitivities are not uncommon, keeping a food / IBD symptom diary can help identify any specific food intolerances. Record what foods are eaten daily along with any supplements taken. Include a personal health report and any symptoms experienced on that day. After several months, patterns may reveal themselves to help identify specific food sensitivities.

Written by: J.Marshall


Try my Broccoli Pesto Pasta recipe! Broccoli is an excellent healing food source for IBD.

carrot soup


Try my Curry Carrot Purée Soup recipe! Puréed foods and ginger root are excellent healing foods for IBD.


•    Guts4life: The home of OBD information & support / Living Healthily Diet: http://www.guts4life.com/living-with-ibd/lifestyle-matters/living-healthily
•    BioMed Central / Nutrition Journal / An anti-inflammatory diet as treatment for inflammatory bowel disease: a case series report: http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-13-5
•    Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America / The Relationship Between Food & IBD: http://www.ibdetermined.org/ibd-information/ibd-diet.aspx
•    Chron’s & Colitis Foundation of America / Diet, Nutrition and Inflammatory Bowel Disease: http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/assets/pdfs/diet-nutrition-2013.pdf
•    Mercola: Take Control of Your Health / How to Heal Inflammatory Bowel Disease like Crohn’s Disease: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/10/inflammatory-bowel-disease-symptoms.aspx
•    Dr. Axe: Food is Medicine / Crohn’s Disease Diet & Natural Treatment Plan: https://draxe.com/crohns-disease-diet/

Additional Resources

Check out this guide from reviews.com to find great probiotic supplements for general gut health, antibiotic recovery, immune health and more!


Visit the:

Article Archive – View our health reference articles on how to maintain a well-balanced diet, the nutritional value of essential nutrients, nutrient-rich foods and the beneficial foods that can help in the healing of chronic disease and illness.

Recipe Archive – View all of our delicious healthful recipes.

Home – Go to top of the home page.

~Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well~

Leave a Reply