Best Food Guide for IBD

Living with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, can make meal planning complicated, but it doesn't have to be. There are safe choices to guide your healthy eating decisions.

Though there's a lot of debate and discussion about patients with IBD needing to go gluten-free or dairy-free or follow The Specific Carbohydrate DietTM, the best diet is one tailored to your specific need, says Tasneem Bhatia, MD, Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrated Medicine and advisor to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

There is no one single diet or eating plan that will do the trick for everyone with IBD. Your doctor can help customize an eating plan for you—one that is based on your condition.

Eat With IBD

So what can you eat? First, consult a nutritionist, says Bhatia. "Many doctors may not have the time to meal plan, so working with a nutritionist that's familiar with Inflammatory Bowel Disease—and some of the restrictions that those patients have—is a good idea.

The CCFA advises you strive for a well-balanced, healthy diet. Here are some foods that may promote healing:

  • Rice

    "Rice protein is very nurturing and healing to the gut," says Bhatia. It's especially helpful during a flare. If you can tolerate it, she says brown rice is preferred, but if you're flaring, you may want to choose lower-fiber white rice.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    "People get stuck on the fishes, but there are other plant-based sources of omega 3s," says Bhatia. Vegetable oils (soybean, canola), Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, walnuts, and flaxseeds also have omega-3 fatty acids. "The highest concentration, of course, is going to be in fatty fish and nuts." Since nuts are a problem for many IBD patients, Bhatia suggests grinding the nuts down into a paste or a butter to incorporate the essential fatty acid into the diet. She also recommends an omega-3 supplement for most patients.

  • Soft-Textured Foods

    Particularly important during a flare, soft foods like mashed potatoes, applesauce, and mashed bananas should be your go-to for easy digestion. These foods give the intestines a much-needed break while providing you much-needed nutrition.

  • Water

    Be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and prevent constipation. IBD symptoms include both diarrhea and constipation—and fluid intake is important for both conditions.

    More Healthy Eating Tips for IBD

  • Limit high-sugar foods.

    Many patients with IBD can't tolerate high-sugar foods, says Bhatia. "High-sugar drinks, like Gatorade, soda, and sweets (including sugar, artificial sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup) can be really tough on patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease," she says. Plus, they'll trigger more inflammation.

  • Limit nuts and seeds.

    Even though they have a lot of protein and a lot of healthy fat in them, the majority of IBD patients can't tolerate nuts and seeds, says Bhatia. However, she says they may be better tolerated in the form of a paste or butter.

  • Limit pasta and refined grains.

    There is some debate whether these grains, or an excess of grains, play a role in aggravating the disease in certain patients. Bhatia has noticed that her patients do better with gluten alternatives, such as quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth. She doesn't advise you go gluten-free, but that you try to incorporate some of the alternatives into your diet. "They tone down immune activity, and thus, your immune response."

  • Reduce or eliminate dairy.

    Many IBD sufferers are also lactose intolerant. Even if you're not, you may find the lactose or sugar in milk hard to digest.

  • Avoid greasy foods.

    Greasy foods, loaded with saturated fats and foods containing trans fats don't do well with IBD patients, says Bhatia.

  • Excessive caffeine intake.

    Even if you can tolerate caffeine, it's wise to limit consumption. "Coffee contributes to the wearing away of the intestinal lining," says Bhatia. She recommends that your drink no more than two to four ounces a day of a caffeinated beverage—whether that's coffee, tea, green tea, or soda.

  • Eat smaller portions and smaller meals.

    It goes without saying that eating large quantities of meat without an appropriate amount of fiber to go with it is going to be tough on the stomach. "Protein should be balanced with fiber," says Bhatia. "Add a vegetable or fruit to help you break it down." It's also beneficial to eat smaller meals throughout the day.




    Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, physician at the Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrated Medicine and advisor to the Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America.

    Diet and Nutrition. Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Web.