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 sufficient nutrients can lead to malnutrition, anemia and weight loss.

A well-balanced diet made up of the four basic food groups 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. Avoiding foods like alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, sugars, dairy (except plain yogurt), red meat, gluten, whole-grains, wheat flours, high-fibre, corn or corn-products, spicy foods, fried foods, processed foods and fast foods is important as they all can irritate the bowels and exacerbate conditions.

Low-fibre foods, steamed foods and pureed foods can help ease the digestion process and allow more nutrients in the foods to be absorbed. High-fiber foods are best to avoid, especially during flare-ups include: whole-grains, brown rice, dried fruits, raw fruits and vegetables, red meats, seeds and nuts. Low-fiber foods include: white grain-free breads, white rice, refined flours, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, steamed and cooked vegetables and white tender meats.

Gluten-reduced and gluten-free foods may also be beneficial for people suffering with IBD as gluten can be difficult to process with compromised bowel function. High gluten foods to avoid include foods and drinks that contain: wheat, rye, barley and processed foods with refined white flours.

High-calorie and high-protein diets may be necessary for people with IBD since a compromised digestive system absorbs less calories and protein along with the other essential nutrients in food.

Healthy high-calorie food sources for a compromised digestive system include: smooth nut and seed butters, yogurt, bananas, yogurt fruit smoothies, guacamole, avocados, potatoes, rice, chia seeds and quinoa.

Healthy high-protein food sources for people with IBD 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. People suffering with chronic and serious IBD could be deficient in some essential nutrients. A blood or hair analysis can help determine if any deficiencies exist that can be countered with supplements and beneficial foods. A dietician can help organize a balanced meal-plan that can include specific foods to offset any deficiencies.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids help to regulate the immune system and reduce intestinal inflammation. Good sources of omega-3 foods for digestive disorders include: eggs, yogurt and chia seeds; as well cold water fish such as: wild salmon, rainbow trout, sardines, clams and crab.

Ginger has  long been used to ease poor digestion with its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Fresh ginger root can be peeled, sliced, steeped in hot water and enjoyed as 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.

Easing digestion can make it easier for your body to absorb key nutrients from your food and reduce the chances of flare-ups. Chewing foods thoroughly, pureed foods and liquid diets can help give your intestines a rest. Getting in the habit of lightly steaming vegetables will help to preserve the nutrients in food, as well break down these foods for easier digestion. Digestive aids can also be taken before eating large meals to assist in the process. Pineapple and papaya are natural digestive aids that can be beneficial when cooked with some foods.

Studies have shown that broccoli and plantains help stop the growth of Crohn’s disease and colitis. 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 rich in antioxidants and vitamin A carotenes, which have shown to decrease the chances of bladder and colon cancers by 50%. Adding these foods to the menu can be very beneficial for people suffering with IBD as they are at higher risk of these conditions.

When preparing meals, eating less more often is often recommended, as large meals can lead to bloating, cramping and cause to flare-ups.

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 sensitivity is not uncommon; keeping a food / IBD symptom diary can help identify any specific food intolerance. Record what foods are eaten on a daily basis, along with any supplements taken. Also 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 our Broccoli Pesto Pasta recipe! Broccoli is an excellent healing food source 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!


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