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I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease recently, and I know that changing my diet will be a big part of recovery and keeping the disease in check. Unfortunately, I have a really busy schedule and don't always have time to go grocery shopping or cook for myself. I dine out pretty often - several times a week - everything from a decent sit-down restaurant to fast food. I'm trying to stay toward things that are conventionally healthy, like subs with lots of veggies or salads when possible, but fresh, uncooked vegetables don't always treat me well.

For someone who dines out on a fairly regular basis, what kinds of foods are "safe" for someone with IBD? Also, what foods should someone with IBD stay away from when dining out?

I'd appreciate any answers to my dilemma!

Smartliving Guest asked this
August 29, 2011 at 7:50 AM


  While there is not yet evidence of particular foods ending inflammation, there are dietary changes you can make to reduce the symptoms of cramping, bloating, and the discomfort that comes with it. In general it helps to avoid foods that trigger upset stomachs for everyone, including spicy, fatty, or greasy foods, and caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. One of the most evidence-based diets recommended for Crohn’s Disease is the FODMAP™ diet. This diet helps you to eliminate foods containing short-chain sugars as these sugars are used by the bacteria in your small intestines to create gas. The acronym FODMAP stands for: Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, and Mono-saccharides, And Polyols, those very sugars I am referring to. Examples of FODMAP containing foods include beans, dairy, fruit juice, many fruits (most berries are okay!), rye, lentils, cabbage, high fructose corn syrup, wheat, ketchup, BBQ sauce, onions, and garlic, among other foods. 

  While FODMAPs are found in a wide variety of foods, there are still plenty of safe and delicious options left for you to enjoy in your diet! As it is best to avoid foods containing wheat, looking for the gluten-free claim on food labels or menus will help, though you will still need to use your detective skills to determine what other ingredients may contain FODMAPs in the meal. Also, because dairy foods are not typically well-tolerated be sure to incorporate alternative sources of calcium in your diet such as fortified soy or almond milk, tofu, leafy greens, almonds, or a calcium supplement. A multivitamin is a great idea to include as a safety net in your diet as well.

As you mentioned you are often eating on the run, watch out for the massive portions being dished out in restaurants. Eating smaller, frequent meals has shown positive effects in reducing disease symptoms. I encourage you to stock up on foods that you find your body is able to tolerate to help ensure you have safe options to hold you over when you are on the run. Though for those times when you are knocking on the drive-thru window, here are a few simple options to help get you through your day:

• Breakfast: Starbuck’s oatmeal with nuts and a non-nutritive sweetener of your choice (ex. Stevia or Splenda). Plus, fresh (not dried) berries if available. Pack a banana to go along with it. • Lunch: Wendy’s baked potato (no sour cream or butter) and a BLT Cobb Salad (minus cheese and oil and vinegar dressing, or another that does not contain high fructose corn syrup). Grapes would be a tasty side to your meal. • Dinner: Nearly any restaurant will be able to offer you a clean cut of fish or poultry, a side of brown rice, quinoa, or gluten-free pasta, with a side of cauliflower or squash.

While the FODMAP diet will not cure your disease, research has found it will help to reduce the symptoms of cramping and bloating. If you are interested in the FODMAP approach, I encourage you to give it at least two-weeks for you to determine if FODMAP foods are truly the source of your Crohn’s pains. For more information on Crohn’s Disease in general, I encourage you to look through the patient information and tracking guide available from the University of Michigan. This resource is incredibly thorough and will help you to identify the common triggers in your own diet: 
Jessica Corwin MPH RDN Health Coach answered
October 30, 2011 at 8:52 PM

I agree with Jessica,

Although there are many specific diets that people tout for Crohn’s, the facts are that there is no one diet that has been scientificaly proven to work for everyone with Crohn’s. Different foods trigger different people to have flair ups. The key is to figure out what foods trigger your flair ups, and to avoid those.

Here is a list of foods that commonly cause flair ups for a lot of people with Crohn’s. As a person recently diagnosed with Crohn’s, I would recommend you keep a close eye on these foods to see if they cause you problems.

• alcohol (mixed drinks, beer, wine) • carbonated beverages • coffee, tea, chocolate

• corn husks • whole grains and bran • foods high in fiber • gas-producing foods (lentils, beans, legumes, cabbage, broccoli, onions) • raw fruits • raw vegetables

• dairy products (if lactose intolerant) • butter, mayonnaise, margarine, oils • fatty foods (fried foods) • nuts and seeds (peanut butter, other nut butters)

• red meat and pork • spicy foods

Stay Healthy,

Dr. Jeff M.D.

Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, MD Health Coach answered
October 31, 2011 at 9:45 PM
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