10 Gut-Soothing Foods for People With Crohn’s Disease
Your Crohn’s nutrition plan should be highly individualized, but these easy-to-digest foods may be a good place to start.
Crohn’s disease affects everyone differently, which means there are no hard-and-fast rules about what foods to eat or avoid. The best way to shore up your Crohn’s diet is by evaluating your own experience with certain foods.
To identify foods that can trigger your Crohn’s symptoms, keep track of your meals in a food diary and then start eliminating the foods you can’t tolerate.
Next, find nutrient-rich foods that you can digest easily. Looking for suggestions? Try these 10 easy-to-digest options.
Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, which may help reduce diarrhea by absorbing water in the gut and delaying emptying of the intestines, says Keren Gilbert, RD, founder and president of Decision Nutrition.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, can irritate the intestines. Found in some vegetables, wheat bran, and whole grains, it is more difficult to digest because it goes through the body faster.
“Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation,” Gilbert says. This fatty fish also contains potassium, which helps your body maintain fluid balance when you have a flare, she adds. Salmon is also easy to make and can be prepared in a variety of ways, including broiled, poached, grilled, or baked. Just be mindful when adding sauces that may contain ingredients that are harder to digest or can cause irritation, such as sugar or certain spices.
Another good source of potassium? Potatoes. Mashed potatoes may be an easy food to introduce after a flare, according to the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. You can also try baking or boiling potatoes, but make sure you avoid the skins, which are more difficult to digest because they contain insoluble fiber. Try pairing skinless potatoes with salmon for dinner.
Avocados are filled with healthy fat, B vitamins, and vitamin E, Gilbert says. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber but are generally easier to digest than many other sources of fiber.
Cut the fruit lengthwise and twist the two halves apart. Remove the pit, score the fruit, and scoop the avocado out of the skin and then add a few slices to white bread or crackers.
Fresh Vegetable Juices
Vegetables are an important source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, but many vegetables have insoluble fiber, which makes them difficult to digest. You can still get most of the nutritional benefits of veggies by making fresh vegetable juice at home, Gilbert says. The tough, indigestible fiber is removed, but the vitamins and minerals remain. Try juicing carrots, beets, apples, leafy greens, and other fresh produce.
Smoothies With Pineapple Juice
Smoothies are another great way to enjoy the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables without consuming the seeds and skins that can be so hard on the digestive system. For example, instead of opting for strawberries, choose smooth, fleshy fruits such as papaya and bananas. Gilbert also recommends adding pineapple juice; the fruit contains bromelain, a phytotherapeutic agent, which has long been recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties, according to a study published in September 2016 in the journal Biomedical Reports.
When you have inflammation or are recovering from a flare, you may need extra protein. Animal proteins contain amino acids, which are used by the body to perform a number of functions, including cell growth and tissue repair. Gilbert recommends eggs, because they’re an easily digested form of protein. Eggs can be prepared many ways — poached, scrambled, hard boiled — and unless you’re adding extra ingredients to the pan, any of these methods should be easy on your gut. Experiment until you find what you like, she says.
Grilled Chicken Breasts
Another good protein choice is skinless chicken, because other proteins, such as red meat, are higher in fat and more difficult to digest. When preparing chicken, beware of marinades that may have spices or sugars that are difficult to digest. Portion size is also important. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a good portion size for chicken is 3 ounces, about half of a small chicken breast.
Calcium deficiency is a common concern for people with Crohn’s disease. To meet the recommended daily value (about 1,000 milligrams for adults), aim for three to four servings of calcium-rich foods every day. If you can tolerate dairy, Gilbert recommends live-culture yogurt, because it has the added benefit of probiotics, or good bacteria, which can aid in the recovery of the intestines. Non-dairy sources of calcium include fortified orange juice and soy milk, tofu, salmon and kale.
Baked Apple Dessert
Sometimes you just want something sweet. Baked apples make for a healthy dessert while providing an easier-to-digest source of fiber when prepared without the skins. Once apples are peeled, the remaining fiber is soluble, so it is gentler on your digestive system. Raw fruits can be difficult to digest, Gilbert says, but peeling the skin and baking or cooking the fruit makes them softer. Unsweetened applesauce is another good option.