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Autoimmune Diseases

Food and Nutrition Expert Offers Tips for People with Crohn’s Disease

Photo: Courtesy of Isabella and Louisa Fischer

Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC

National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

As more people are cooking at home, trying new recipes, and experimenting with new ingredients, it’s important to be aware of what foods might affect loved ones with digestive issues such as Crohn’s disease. 

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease defined by chronic inflammation and irritation of the digestive tract that can result in symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, fever, and fatigue. 

Those with Crohn’s disease are at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies, so a physician can refer you to a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who is experienced in digestive health. 

Who are RDNs?

RDNs are food and nutrition experts. A RDN can provide medical nutrition therapy which includes reviewing your lifestyle, medications, and eating habits and assessing your nutritional status to create a tailored nutrition care plan to help reduce symptoms and improve your appetite. Many medical plans cover the costs of seeing a RDN, so check with your insurance plan for specific medical nutrition therapy coverage details.

Foods do not cause Crohn’s disease, and no specific eating pattern has been scientifically proven to alleviate it. Some foods and drinks usually are not recommended when you have symptoms, and some people may have food sensitivities that can trigger inflammation and exacerbate symptoms. Foods that are lower in fiber and fat can be helpful when you are experiencing diarrhea. 

Creating a plan 

Research suggests that the gut microbiome may play a role in Crohn’s disease, so it provides an opportunity for a RDN to provide a treatment plan to reduce inflammation in the gut to support gut healing and improve symptoms. An integrative and functional medicine approach would include administering specialized stool tests to assess the digestive tract for microbes that trigger inflammation. Using that information, an RDN would recommend certain herbs and dietary supplements along with diet and lifestyle strategies to reduce inflammation, encourage the colonization of healthy bacteria, and support digestion and absorption. 

A RDN can help you create a personalized, flavorful and nutrient-rich eating plan with the right mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthful fats, along with recommendations for vitamins, minerals, probiotics, phytonutrients, fluids, and calories that you need to help improve your symptoms and nutritional health. A RDN can also recommend diet and lifestyle strategies to help manage symptoms.

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