Crohn’s Disease and Diet

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Crohn's Intestinal InflammationCrohn’s disease is an autoimmune diseasethat causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  The exact cause is not known, but contributing factors include family history and the environment. When a person with an inherited risk is exposed to an environmental trigger such as bacteria that can alter the intestinal microflora, diet, and smoking, the immune system is activated leading to an inflammatory response.

Dietary Recommendations

Diet may aggravate Crohn’s disease, but does not cause the disease.  Studies suggest that red meat, processed and fatty foods, as well as refined grains may increase intestinal inflammation.  Therefore, it is recommended that patients with Crohn’s reduce greasy or fried foods, limit the consumption of milk products, and restrict the intake of certain high-fiber foods such as nuts, seeds, and whole grains.  Patients should also eat small frequent meals as opposed to three large meals.  There is no evidence that alcohol worsens Crohn’s disease, but there is limited evidence that suggests drinking alcoholic beverages with a higher sugar content may cause pain in Crohn’s patients.  No studies have demonstrated that alcohol consumption causes Crohn’s disease.

Keep a Food Diary

Patients with Crohn’s disease should be advised that although diet is not a cause of Crohn’s disease and changes in diet will not cure Crohn’s, paying special attention to one’s diet can help reduce and control IBD symptoms.  One of the best ways to understand how diet affects one’s condition is to keep a food diary.  Recording foods eaten along with accompanying symptoms can help identify foods that may cause distress.  These foods should be eliminated from one’s diet.

Crohn’s Disease Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fever.  Some people with Crohn’s also have extraintestinal symptoms, including a skin rash, joint pain, and eye redness.  There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but anti-inflammatory medications can help to keep the disease under control.  If medicine does not control symptoms, surgery might be an option to remove the diseased part of the intestine.

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