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Taking On Crohn's Disease With Diet

By HERWriter
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Crohn's Disease related image Photo: Getty Images

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease which causes inflammation to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It's also known as ileitis or enteritis.

Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks healthy body tissue. White blood cells amass in the intestinal lining, initiating chronic inflammation, then progressing to ulcerations and injury to the bowel.

The usual target is the lower part of the small intestine, or the ileum. The inflammation and swelling penetrate deep into the intestinal lining, causing intense pain and diarrhea. The intestines can't absorb nutrients properly and malnutrition becomes a real threat.

A person with Crohn's disease may be anemic or deficient in vitamin B12 and folic acid. Many sufferers are deficient in vitamin D. The National Academy of Sciences report that 2,000 IUs a day of vitamin D is safe.

Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil or flaxseed oil may have an anti-inflammatory effect. Probiotics ("good" bacteria) may also be beneficial.

Inflammation and diarrhea cause fluid loss and ultimately dehydration. If you get dizzy or weak, or light-headed, you may be dehydrated.

It's imperative to keep your fluid and electrolyte intake up. Electrolytes help keep the electrical balance and water distributed to the cells.

A high-calorie liquid diet may bring relief to the embattled intestines, and enable greater absorption of nutrients so needed by Crohn's sufferers.

No diet works universally. But being aware of which foods agree with you and which ones don't gives you the upper hand.

Some of the likely suspects are dairy products, high-fiber foods, fried foods, legumes and cruciferous vegetables, whole grains and bran, nuts and seeds, red meat, spicy foods, raw fruit or vegetables.

Potentially troublesome beverages are alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, milk and tea.

A high-calorie, high-protein diet with three meals and two or three snacks a day, or a low-residue diet may be beneficial. Low-fiber and low-residue diet can decrease the cramps, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

A low-residue diet is low in foods that add residue to stool.

Add a Comment1 Comments

Great article, Jody!

There are several nutritional approaches to help deal with Crohns. I recently read a passionate blog on the subject:

As far as Omega-3, the research shows that enteric coated fish oil pills have a MUCH better effect than non-enteric coated ones.

Another dietary approach is to reduce Omega-6. We eat WAY too much Omega-6 and in excess, Omega-6 is inflammatory. And Crohn's is an inflammatory condition. The first place to start is the kitchen: replace Corn and Soy oils with Olive or Canola. Omega-6 you ate last winter could still be stored in your body - so this is a gradual process. Speaking of, check out science writer, Susan Allport's version of Supersize Me, called Omega-6 Me, where she increased her Omega-6 intake for a month. Scary! http://susanallport.com/

Thanks again.

August 19, 2010 - 11:03am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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