Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness. We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities, so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life. Check out our latest Health Hint on maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. We hope you find it helpful. If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario, please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.
What are Crohn’s and Colitis?
Crohn’s and colitis are the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This group of conditions is characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal system which hampers with the body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients, expel waste, and perform other food-related functions. The body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue in the digestive tract, and this causes the inflammation. The location and extent of the inflammation varies from person to person. Colitis refers to the condition where only the inner lining of the colon is affected. Crohn’s, on the other hand, refers the the condition where entire sections of the intestines and their tissues may become inflamed.
Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease usually involve stomach pain, inconsistent bowel movements, weight loss, changes in appetite, and sometimes fevers. IBD affects people differently and symptoms can come and go depending on stress and other life factors. Unfortunately, Canada has some of the highest instances of IBD in the world. For more information on IBD, visit this page.
What Can You Eat?
Because IBD is highly individualized, there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Different people can be affected by foods in different ways, which is why it’s important to monitor food intolerances, flare ups, and the foods associated with them.
Though, some foods like those high in insoluble fiber, seeds, nuts, and some raw fruits and vegetables can be harder to digest. These foods don’t all need to be avoided though, so try them out to see which ones your body tolerates.
It’s important to identify foods that trigger negative responses from your body like excessive bloating, stomach pains, diarrhea, and constipation. One of the most common ways to address the triggers is to identify and eliminate them. Start off with eating a minimal selection of safe foods and slowly introduce others – as you are doing this, monitor your body’s response to the new foods. Safe foods should not cause negative effects. Eating smaller meals throughout the day may be an effective strategy as it places less stress on your digestive system like a large meal might do. Sometimes, the issues can include lactose foods and other times the issues can be too much fat (or too much of one kind of fat).
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada have many wonderful resources to help you out! Take a look at this guide, this page on diet and nutrition, and this video that takes a deep dive into the macro and micro topics of nutrition.
Nutritional Supplements and Probiotics
Because IBD can affect the way your body absorbs nutrients, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any supplements you may need. Common nutrients that can be difficult to absorb include iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, and zinc. Probiotics can enhance the bacterial flora in your intestines, helping you to digest your food. There is a caveat though, as too much of one type of probiotic bacteria can worsen inflammation. To diversify your intestinal flora, try to eat a greater diversity of fruits, vegetables, and other foods, and their presence in your intestines can promote healthy bacterial growths. For more information on nutritional therapies, you can visit this page.
Remember, IBD is a challenge that requires optimism and grit! Do your best to reduce stress, get plenty of sleep, keep hydrated, and eat healthy foods that make you feel good. There is no magic recipe, and your body is unique so keep trying your best!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our latest Health Hint!
Written by Jennifer Nemcik
NOTE: This article is intended to provide general health tips based on available research. You
should consult with a health care professional for specific medical and dietary instructions that are right for you.