• Dairy, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, or any other trigger foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeinated beverages


  • Water
  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Applesauce
  • Toast
  • White meat
  • Poultry


  • Bran
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruits


  • Smokers
  • Immediate family with IBD
  • Caucasians
  • People of Ashkenazic Jewish descent
  • Scandanavians
  • Children
    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term for chronic conditions marked by gastrointestinal tract inflammation
    Two of the most common conditions are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
    Ulcerative colitis is more localized than Crohn’s disease but in both cases, the immune system responds abnormally to normal substances in the intestines, such as food and bacteria
    To fight off the invader, your body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, and the result is chronic inflammation, which causes symptoms such as bloody stools, cramping, diarrhea, and appetite loss

    Nutrition Connection

    While diet doesn’t cause IBD and can’t cure it, some foods may ease symptoms while others may trigger flare-ups
    These are different for each person, so you may need to do a little detective work to tailor an eating plan that works for you
    The following suggestions may help: Eat 5 to 6 smaller meals
    Spacing smaller meals throughout the day, rather than having three large meals, puts less strain on your intestinal tract
    Drink lots of fluids but avoid alcohol
    This can help prevent dehydration, kidney problems, or gallstones
    Alcohol can worsen intestinal bleeding, lowers the body’s immunity, and may contribute to malnutrition
    Taking in liquid at the same time as food, though, may sometimes cause diarrhea, so do your drinking in between meals
    Identify your trigger foods
    Try eliminating any foods that seem to create problems, such as dairy, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, or spices
    Add them back in one at a time, and keep a diary of symptoms
    Stick to your safe foods
    While these are different for everyone, most people find that the classic BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet works to soothe symptoms
    Chicken, turkey, and other white meat is also usually well tolerated
    Limit foods high in fiber
    High-fiber foods are often improperly digested and passed through to the colon where they can be digested by bacteria
    This may cause bacterial overgrowth, which in turn can exacerbate the disease, irritate the intestines, and make diarrhea worse
    Insoluble fiber, such as that found in bran, whole grains, nuts, and dried fruits, tends to be more irritating than soluble fiber, such as that found in oats
    Discuss other ways of obtaining nutrition
    The most severe cases of Crohn’s may require total parenteral nutrition (TPN), in which all nutrients are given intravenously
    TPN is most beneficial for patients who need to rest their intestinal tract or are unable to absorb nutrients from eating
    This approach also benefits children whose growth is being stunted by inadequate nutrition
    Because it can be administered at home, TPN allows for a more normal lifestyle

    Beyond the Diet

    Because ulcerative colitis is usually localized to the colon, surgery to remove the colon is considered a cure
    For patients with Crohn’s disease, however, while surgery to remove diseased parts of the bowel may provide some relief, the disease usually recurs
    Some medications, such as 5-ASA medications and corticosteroids, are used to treat both conditions
    In addition, try the following: Stop smoking
    Smoking is a risk factor for Crohn’s disease and can actually worsen your symptoms
    Ask your doctor for help in quitting
    Practice relaxation techniques
    Stress can worsen IBD symptoms, so mind-body exercises such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi can be helpful
    Move your body
    Although exercise is the last thing you may feel like doing, try to be more active
    Doing so eases stress in addition to helping maintain overall health
    Consider hypnosis
    At least one study suggests that hypnotherapy can help reduce IBD symptoms
    Get psychological support
    Depression and anxiety are common among people with IBD, especially children
    Cognitive behavioral therapy can help deal with symptoms and improve your coping skills
    Talk to your doctor about taking supplements
    Even Crohn’s patients who maintain a normal diet may develop nutritional deficiencies because of poor nutrient absorption
    High-dose vitamins should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision; for example, those who develop vitamin B12 deficiency often need to take it by injection if they lack the intestinal substances to metabolize it
    Patients with severe symptoms or those who have had extensive surgery may need a special high- calorie liquid formula, either as a nutritional supplement or as a meal replacement
    In unusual cases, an elemental diet—a low-fat, easy-to-digest formula—may be prescribed