Foods that may help avoid flares

Some healthful foods may have anti-inflammatory effects that can help control the underlying inflammation of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Many of these foods are unprocessed. They also tend to have lots of color. Some of the substances that give fruits and vegetables their color have anti-inflammatory and other healthful effects.

Eating this way helps support anti-inflammatory pathways in our bodies, which may be very helpful when managing an inflammatory disease like IBD. In addition, if you are not flaring, eating healthful foods will also help you avoid any deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Fruits and vegetables (especially the ones with lots of color)

Vegetables and fruits are loaded with substances with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dark leafy green and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), carrots, beets, berries, onions, peas, squashes, sea vegetables and salad greens are rich in beta-carotene, anthocyanins, and other compounds that fight disease at a molecular level.

If your digestive system has difficulty tolerating fruit and vegetables, try eating them in small amounts. Cooking vegetables can also make them easier to digest. Cruciferous vegetables cause gas and odor production, but many people can tolerate them in small amounts.

Protein from plants and lean animal sources

Beans and legumes are also rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium and soluble fiber (helpful for forming and softening,stool).  Eating a variety of beans (black, white, kidney, adzuki, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, lentils) will provide a variety of nutrients.

Whole grains

Intact grains, or those cut into a pieces rather than finely ground into flour, are digested slowly so they help keep blood sugar and energy levels stable. Some examples of whole grains include barley, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and steel-cut oats.

Herbs and spices

Adding fresh herbs and spices to your food adds flavor without the use of salt. Tumeric and ginger have the added bonus of being natural anti-inflammatory agents. They are also rich in antioxidants.

Basil, chili peppers, curry powder, rosemary, and thyme also contain antioxidants.

Olive oil, coconut oil, omega-3 fats

Fat is an important component of a balanced diet. A good quality olive oil (extra virgin is the least processed and has a nice, strong flavor) is best for sautéing over low heat and making cold dressings or sauces.

Coconut oil is worth trying, especially if you have a difficult time digesting fat. As a medium-chain triglyceride, it’s more easily and more completely digested without the help of bile salts than other plant oils. For that reason, it can be a good oil for people with malnutrition and malaborption problems.

Coconut is solid at room temperature, so it is versatile and can be used like butter for both sautéing over high heat and for baking.

Omega-3 fats are important because we cannot make them in our body. They are found in nuts, avocadoes, freshly ground flaxseed, and fish. Wild salmon and sardines are preferable to other fish as a source of omega-3s because of their low heavy metal content.

Artificial trans fats should be avoided altogether because it increases the risk of developing heart disease. Trans fat is used to make crackers, cookies, and other processed food because it extends the shelf life.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods contain several species of beneficial micro-organisms that thrive in our digestive tract. Eating fermented foods repopulates the digestive tract with these micro-organisms so there is the right balance of bacteria colonizing the gut.

Most cultures have have diets that include fermented foods. The Italians eat antipasto; Japanese eat miso, tempeh and natto; eastern Europeans eat kiefer or yogurt; Koreans eat kymchee; and the Germans eat sauerkraut.

One problem with the standard American diet is the lack of fermented foods.