Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Which Foods to Eat and Which Foods to Avoid to Fight Inflammation



Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a treatable, but chronic and lifelong condition. It is a term that roughly refers to inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and includes specific conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The reality is that they are conditions that have strong episodes and that in a certain way significantly deteriorate people’s quality of life. Although they are conditions that have no cure, it is known that in addition to medical treatment; making lifestyle and diet adjustments is essential to managing disease, flare-ups, and periods of remission. Based on this, we set about compiling some basic dietary recommendations (endorsed by experts) to keep inflammation under control.

What foods to eat during flare-ups?

exist some factors that may be capable of causing the reactivation of the disease such as stopping taking the medication, the recurrent use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in an uncontrolled way, suffering stressful life events or suffering from infections, both intestinal and otherwise. Therefore, it is advisable to follow a healthy, balanced and varied diet, exercise, try to avoid stressful situations and maintain a positive attitude by adapting to each situation during the course of the disease. What’s more, it is important to mention that not all shoots are the same, the type of symptoms and their intensity are highly variable. Flare-ups can be mild, moderate, or severe. Up to 15% of patients may have a severe flare that sometimes also manifests as intestinal complications such as lower gastrointestinal bleeding, colon rupture or perforation, and severe colon dilation (megacolon). However, broadly speaking When it comes to a controlled outbreak, diet plays an indispensable factor in reducing symptoms.

While it is true that fiber is one of the most important nutrients for the digestive and intestinal system. Before an episode of intestinal inflammation, it is very important to reduce the consumption of foods rich in fiber. Therefore it is important to bet on low fiber foods that are easier to digest and are less irritating to the intestine. This measure is especially important when you have symptoms of abdominal pain and diarrhea. Experts recommend betting on the following foods:

– Grains / starches: White foods, instead of wheat or whole grains. In particular, it is advisable to choose those with less than 2 grams of fiber per serving.

Cooked vegetables: In the diet to treat inflammatory bowel conditions, it is important to ensure the consumption of fruits and vegetables. However, in their raw versions they tend to be more aggressive for the digestive system and even some variants can provide more fiber. The recommendation is to go for well-cooked vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, skinless mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus tips and pumpkin puree.

– Canned or soft fruits: Fruits are important in any healthy diet, however before any outbreak it is important to consume them with caution. Bet on the intake of peeled apples, ripe bananas, sweet melon, watermelon and fruits canned in fruit juice or light syrups.

Get enough proteins of high biological value: Inflammation causes an increase in protein needs, therefore it is very important to ensure its adequate consumption. Choose well-cooked tender meats: poultry like chicken and turkey, salmon and other fatty fish, lean beef and pork (no added fat). Eggs are a wonderful and versatile ally, in case of consuming sausages, bet on the versions low in sodium and fat, such as natural turkey breast. Tofu is a great plant-based protein option.

– Soft nut and seed butters: They are important as they provide beneficial calories, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, as well as providing a lot of energy to the body. Bet on the organic versions and without added sugars, such as peanuts, almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds.

– Drink plenty of fluids: It is essential to ensure adequate hydration, the general recommendation is to drink eight cups of water a day, it is also a good idea to supplement with oral rehydration drinks as necessary. It is very important to avoid the consumption of sugary drinks, those that are made with substitutes for sugar and caffeine. It is also vital to avoid alcohol intake.

– Limit the consumption of added fats and oils: It is vital to reduce the consumption of foods rich in trans and saturated fats, therefore it is important to avoid all kinds of ultra-processed and fried foods. Go for healthy fats like avocado, walnuts, and olive oil and limit your intake to less than eight teaspoons of oils per day.

– Integrate the consumption of calcium, vitamin D, probiotics and prebiotics into the daily routines. The most recommended sources include:

  • 1% and 2% nonfat evaporated milk
  • Lactose-free milk
  • Fortified non-dairy milks such as almond, cashew, coconut or rice milks – it should be noted that these options do not contain much protein
  • Low-fat, 100% natural yogurt (no sweeteners or flavorings)
  • Fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir, tempeh, and kombucha

What to eat during remission?

Remission occurs when the combination of medications and diet, manage to control or resolve the inflammation of the colon, causing an improvement in symptoms. The period of remission ranges from weeks or months to years. If the medications work and no other factor triggers a flare, the disease can remain in remission for a long period of time. However, it is essential to continue with treatment, diet, and proper lifestyle-focused habits.

– Increase your fiber intake: At this stage it is important to consume fiber again, to guarantee an adequate intestinal transit. It is worth incorporating foods high in fiber slowly when gastrointestinal symptoms subside, the best way to achieve this is by consuming fruits, vegetables, seeds and whole grains. Oats, quinoa, corn, chia, flaxseed, and rye are great options.

– Integrate the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids: Increase your consumption of fish and other shellfish (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines). Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and black walnuts) and plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, olive oil, and canola oil.

– Follow a diet based on healthy foods in their natural state: This includes foods with minimal processing and ingredients. Bet on an abundant consumption of fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, nuts, proteins of high biological value, moderate dairy products and whole grains.

Continue with a good intake of protein and healthy fats: Go for beef, eggs, poultry, and other lean meats or plant-based proteins, such as soy products. Do not forget to use olive oil, avocados, fish and nuts, in everyday dishes.

In both stages of inflammatory bowel diseases, it is very relevant to bet on integrating the consumption of medicinal spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and others. In complement with healing herbs that shine for their digestive, carminative and anti-inflammatory properties, such as peppermint and spearmint. Bet on integrating them into infusions, juices and smoothies. Cooking methods are also important, bet on cooking food steamed, on the grill, grill and oven. Last but not least: physical activity is essential, as well as good rest and adequate stress management.

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