The 411 on Crohn  s Nutritional Deficiencies

Most of the food we eat is absorbed in the small intestines. Since Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease most often affecting the small intestines, people who have this disease have difficulty digesting and absorbing important nutrients (malabsorption). This can cause malnutrition, which leads to other serious health problems.

Diet does not cause Crohn’s disease, nor is there a diet that offers a permanent cure. It does, however, play a minor role in the inflammatory process. Healthy diets promote healing, may reduce Crohn’s symptoms, and may even increase the effectiveness of some medications. Patients should incorporate dietary changes in tandem with standard medical treatments.


There is no universal Crohn’s diet. Every patient’s tolerance to certain foods is different. A healthy diet includes adequate supply of nutrients, calories and proteins, which comes from eating from a variety of food groups. Protein from meat, fish, poultry, and dairy (if tolerated); carbohydrates from bread, cereal, starches, fruits, and vegetables; and healthy fats, such as those found in certain oils, are all part of a healthy, balanced diet.

It’s also very important to consume enough fluids to prevent dehydration, which can impair the kidneys and lead to kidney stones.

Nutritional supplements

Since malabsorption is common with Crohn’s disease, many patients are deficient in one or more vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids (the good fats).

Vitamins. Crohn’s patients are often lacking in vitamins A, D, K, and B-12. Vitamin A is naturally found in liver, fish oil, kidney, egg yolks, butter, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, spinach, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. The primary source of vitamin D is the sun; it’s not found naturally in very many foods, however these sources include fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, cod-liver oil, and eggs yolks. Many foods such as milk, cereal, and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D. Dietary vitamin K comes from green leafy vegetables and certain oils, including soy, canola, and olive.

In addition to eating foods rich in these vitamins, you may need supplements as well.

Minerals. Folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium all support critical body functions. If you have Crohn’s disease, you may need to take mineral supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acids. Essential omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help the lining of the colon to heal itself. They’re found in walnuts, some fruits and vegetables, and certain coldwater fish. Fish oil or flaxseed supplements will help you fill your omega-3 requirements.

Ask your physician about how to incorporate dietary therapy options in your treatment plan, or include a knowledgeable nutrition expert as part of your team.