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Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Care Instructions

Picture of the lower digestive system

Your Care Instructions

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are types of inflammatory bowel disease. What you eat doesn't increase the inflammation that causes your disease. But some types of foods may make your symptoms worse.

No one diet is right for everyone with an inflammatory bowel disease. Foods that bother one person may not bother another. Your diet has to be tailored for you.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Keep a food diary. As soon as you know what foods make your symptoms worse, your doctor or dietitian can help you plan the right diet for you.
  • Get the calories and nutrients you need.
    • Eat a varied, nutritious diet that is high in calories and protein.
    • Try eating 3 meals plus 2 or 3 snacks a day. It may be easier to get more calories if you spread your food intake throughout the day.
    • Take vitamin and mineral supplements if your doctor recommends them.
    • Try adding high-calorie liquid supplements, such as Ensure Plus or Boost Plus, if you have trouble keeping your weight up.
    • See your doctor or dietitian if your diet feels too limited or you are losing weight.
  • Make sure to get enough iron. Rectal bleeding may make you lose iron.
  • During a flare-up, avoid or reduce foods that make symptoms worse.
    • Choose dairy products that are low in lactose, such as yogurt, lactose-reduced milk, and hard cheeses like cheddar.
    • If you have fat in your stools, choose low-fat foods instead of high-fat ones. For instance, some cuts of red meat have a lot of fat. A low-fat choice would be lean beef (such as sirloin, top and bottom round, chuck, or extra-lean ground beef), poultry, or fish, such as cod.
    • Instead of frying foods, try baking or broiling them.
    • Cook fruits and vegetables without hulls, skins, or seeds.
    • Try different ways of preparing fruits and vegetables, such as steaming, stewing, or baking.
    • Peel and seed fresh fruits and vegetables if these bother you, or choose canned varieties.
    • Avoid simple sugar, fructose, and alcohol, as these foods may make diarrhea worse.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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