Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can cause inflammation in any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, though it most commonly affects the intestines.
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but it can go into remission, during which a person experiences very few symptoms, if any.
Periods of remission alternate with flare-ups, during which symptoms recur. The goal of treatment is to minimize flare-ups and keep the disease in remission for as long as possible.
There are many treatments for Crohn’s. However, the disease affects each body differently, and the right combination of medications and dietary changes varies from person to person. In some cases, surgery is necessary.
For most people with Crohn’s, dietary changes are a major part of treatment. Read on for information about how snacking fits into life with Crohn’s.
Many people with Crohn’s find that their symptoms improve after eating certain foods and flare after eating others.
Dietary changes are an important part of managing Crohn’s disease.
When symptoms are in remission, it is important to eat a nutrient-rich diet, which should include:
- Fiber: However, high fiber diets are not good for some people with Crohn’s.
- Protein: Stick with sources of lean protein, such as fish, eggs, nuts, and tofu.
- Calcium: Choose lactose free products, if dairy is a trigger, and be sure to include leafy green vegetables as another source.
- Probiotics: These are in sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi, for example.
- Fruits and vegetables: It may be beneficial to remove peels and seeds.
A doctor can give advice about how much fiber to include in the diet.
As always, it is essential to stay hydrated and include as much variety in the diet as possible, so that the body can absorb the full range of nutrients.
During a flare-up
Certain foods and drinks are more likely to trigger flare-ups and aggravate existing symptoms of Crohn’s.
These triggers are different for everyone, but they tend to include:
- dairy, and particularly its lactose
- sugary foods
- high fat foods
- spicy foods
- sugar alternatives, including sorbitol and sugar alcohols
A doctor or nutritionist may recommend an elimination diet. This involves removing all common triggers from the diet, then slowly reintroducing them one by one to see whether any worsen or prompt symptoms.
It is important to follow an elimination diet under the supervision of a healthcare professional to ensure that the diet still includes the right balance of nutrients.
Learn more about what to eat during Crohn’s flare-ups here.
When someone has Crohn’s disease, they must think carefully about all of the food they eat each day, including snacks.
Most people with Crohn’s find that eating small snacks frequently throughout the day is better tolerated than three large meals. Aim for a snack or small meal every two to three hours.
Here are some great snack recipes for people with Crohn’s:
Peanut butter banana smoothie
- 1 frozen banana
- 1–2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- milk or an alternative, such as soy milk
- Add the frozen banana, peanut butter, and a few splashes of milk into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Add more milk to thin the smoothie, as desired.
Tip: For a different flavor, substitute other frozen fruits, or add yogurt instead of peanut butter. In the summer, try frozen tropical fruits and coconut milk.
A cup of soup
- 4 cups of broth (veggie or chicken, for example)
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 2–3 cups of diced vegetables, which may be frozen
- Add the broth, diced tomatoes, and vegetables to a saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender and cooked through, which should take around 10–15 minutes.
Tip: Try adding a can of beans or 1 cup of barley, lentils, or cooked, shredded chicken for a little variety and to add protein.
- 1 avocado
- 1 small tomato
- ¼ onion
- a handful of cilantro
- 1 lime
- whole-grain tortilla chips or butter lettuce
- Mash the avocado with a fork.
- Dice the tomato, onion, and cilantro, and add these to the mashed avocado.
- Add the juice of the lime, and mix everything together.
- Serve the mixture with whole-grain tortilla chips or scoop it into butter lettuce cups.
Tip: Spread the guacamole on a slice of toast in the morning for a delicious and filling breakfast.
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- ½ cup of peanut or almond butter
- 1/3 cup of honey
- ½ cup of ground flaxseed
- chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, or a mixture
- Mix the oats, nut butter, honey, and flaxseed.
- Add the chocolate chips, raisins, and nuts, as desired.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Take a small spoonful of the mixture and roll into a ball.
- Continuing with the rest of the mixture, place the balls on the baking sheet.
- Put this in the fridge or freezer to allow the energy balls to set.
- slices of deli turkey
- low-fat or lactose-free cheese
- butter lettuce
- Place a slice of turkey on a plate.
- Place a slice of cheese on top.
- Add a slice of butter lettuce and a thin slice of tomato.
- Roll this up and place it with the seam toward the plate.
Tip: Try adding a few sliced pickles or switching up the ingredients for variety. To make a faux Reuben, use thinly sliced corned beef, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut. Vegan and vegetarian meat and cheese alternatives are also available.
When time is short, give these quick, grab-and-go snacks a try:
- a hard-boiled egg
- a piece of fruit
- low-fat cheese with roasted red pepper
- lactose free or low fat yogurt
- hummus and baby carrots or cucumbers
- a can or pouch of tuna or salmon with crackers or lettuce cups
- a meal replacement drink
- a fruit cup with real juice, not heavy syrup
Ask a dietician about other tasty snack ideas.
Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. While there is no cure, various treatments and interventions can help control the symptoms.
Dietary changes are a crucial part of treatment. Carefully planning meals and snacks are important for anyone with Crohn’s or another inflammatory bowel disease.