Crohn’s and colitis: foods to eliminate
Inflammatory bowel disease is a term that categorizes diseases that affect the bowel and digestion, specifically Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis. Despite the original notion that diet does not impact or exacerbate these diseases, medical professionals in both the western and alternative practices are finding a strong correlation between diet and control of the disease.
This article will focus on the main food groups that should be eliminated for Crohn’s disease. It will also discuss the foods that are recommended for IBD.
Role of diet in IBD
Each individual has varying degrees of tolerance and intolerance to certain food groups. Some may find dairy to be a huge problem, while others are fine with it. It is important when researching diets for healing your gut, that you slowly and patiently listen to your own body and test what seems to work best for you. It can take lots of trial and error, and it is easy to get frustrated during the process. Some recommend doing allergy testing and/or trying the Elimination diet to discover which food groups to eliminate first.
However, there is no doubt that the food that is put into the body and passes through the gut, is going to affect a disease that involves the gut. Thus, some foods can make the disease worse, while other foods can actually help to heal the gut.
The list of foods also changes depending on the active state of the disease. It is important to eliminate certain foods during a flare up that are actually recommended and necessary when the disease is in remission. It is important to distinguish between the two states and be aware of when the gut can tolerate things such as the fiber from vegetables, nuts and fruit. Regardless, it is MOST important to have a wholesome, well-balanced diet of natural, organic, fresh, and un-processed foods at all times. A person with IBD should treat their gut with great care, and think of how each thing that passes through it will affect both in the immediate and in the long term.
Key foods to eliminate
Sugar is one of the most toxic foods on the digestive lining and pretty much intolerable by all those with IBD. The most deceiving part of sugar, is that when eaten it does not cause pain or bowel obstruction as nuts or a high fiber food might when eaten during a flare up. So, some think it is not a problem.
However, sugar totally strips the intestines of its healthy bacteria and replaces it with an overgrowth of the bad bacteria, leading to a condition known as candida. Sugar leads to a serious PH imbalance in the body and thus, makes it harder for the body to heal from a flare up.
Sugar causes gas, bloating, diahrrea, mouth ulcers (even in those without digestive problems). Sugar can be addictive and hard habit to break. And it can be especially difficult to wean children and teens with IBD off of sugar as they see all their peers eating it.
The worst kind of sugar to eat is corn syrup. If one must eat sugar, stick to small amounts of honey. Imitation sugars, such as nutrasweet and sorbital are also should be avoided as they are proven to upset the digestion of almost everyone, even those without IBD.
Note that alcohol behaves like a sugar in the body as well. Some find they can tolerate small amounts of white or red wine as well as small amounts of high quality vodka. But these should be consumed in moderation and avoided during a flare up.
Too much fruit can be really upseting to the digestive tract. Some make the mistake that thinking, because fruit is healthy, lots of it should be eaten. Fruit is a sugar; and in a serious flare up should be avoided all together.
Acidic fruits are the worst; this includes citrus fruits such as oranges, pineapple and tangerines. Pears, mangos, bananas, and papaya tend to be ok on the gut and some find papaya to actually aid in digestion (given the papain enzyme that it has.)
Fruit juice should generally be avoided completely unless it is diluted with water.
Note: that while fruit is natural and is not as difficult on the digestive tract as refined sugars, it can still upset the PH balance of the intestines. Many find that fruit greatly contributes to mouth ulcers as well as digestive cramping and pain.
It is common for people with IBD and digestive problems to be allergic to wheat. Even if you do not test postive for a wheat allergy it is probably one the most important foods to eliminate with IBD. Wheat is very difficult on the digestive tract and digestive lining. Among other things, wheat turns into a sugar in the body, which is particularly upsetting for those with IBD. Wheat can upset the PH balance in the body as well as upset the healthy bacteria of the intestinal lining. This is why taking acidophilus is key for those with IBD, even if wheat is not part of the diet. Acidophilus restores the good and healthy bacteria to the gut lining.
If you are prone to mouth ulcers with IBD flares, eliminating wheat will help minimize them.
Many find that when they eliminate wheat, their gas, diarrhea, bloating and pain lessen.
In general, Americans eat too much wheat. Some theories link excessive wheat consumption with many disorders such as depression, obesity, and diabetes. Unfortunately, wheat is in many foods, so it is important to read the labels. There are many wheat substitutes now – so eating a wheat-free diet is not difficult. You can find corn and rice pasta at most health food stores. Rice is a great alternate starch, as is corn meal. Rice is probably the least offending of the starches and should be a staple in the IBD diet.
Dairy and lactose are common offenders for those with IBD. Lactose is basically a sugar. However, it is one of the most common allergy causing foods; many with IBD are lactose intolerant. However, even if you do not test positive for lactose intolerance, eliminating dairy is likely still essential for a healthy gut. Dairy also upsets the PH of the gut lining, and causes an imbalance of bacteria.
Some find that certain dairy can be tolerated, with milder cheeses such as goat cheese, which has a lower lactose content than that made from cow’s milk. Also, yogurt, especially that which is homemade, has been found to be tolerable, which is of extra benefit due to the acidophilus (good bacteria) that it contains.
However, if you suffer from pain and diarreah due to IBD, try to eliminate dairy all together for at least 3 weeks and see if your symptoms improve.
Steps to Change your Diet
Making drastic changes to the diet can have great results for most people with Inflammatory bowel disease. However, making the changes can be very difficult as they might require some shifts in lifestyle. For example, it becomes much harder to eat meals out. Thus, it is important to set extra time aside to prepare or buy meals in advance. Adhering to a strict diet can also be embarassing in social settings, such as when ordering a meal at a restaurant or when being invited to dinner at someone’s house. It can take awhile to get used to asking for food to be prepared for you in a certain way, but it is worth it.
It is important to be patient with yourself and others as you adopt a new diet. It can be frustrating and alienating to have to eat different food from those around you and from what you would like to eat. However, the payout of improved health is well-worth taking the time and energy to find a diet that works.
How to avoid the sugar crash
Many Americans eat five times the amount of sugar they should. Cut back, but also learn how to help your body handle the sugar you eat.
Special to The Washington Post
Have you ever had a sugar crash? You know that sudden fatigue, headache or irritability you might feel after eating, oh, a hundred jelly beans? If so, you are probably not alone.
The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 100 calories daily from refined sugar, 150 calories for men.
That translates, using our jelly-bean currency, into 10 jelly beans for women and 15 for men.
And that is your entire allotment for the day of refined sugar.
“Many Americans eat about five times the amount of sugar they should consume,” says Natasa Janicic-Kahric, an associate professor of medicine at Georgetown University Hospital.
That means that instead of the AHA-recommended six teaspoons, many women are consuming as much as 30 teaspoons of sugar; and men are consuming 45 teaspoons of sugar instead of nine.
High levels of sugar flood the blood and create sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar levels. This can — but doesn’t necessarily — cause a “sugar crash” (sudden headache, fatigue, irritability, increased heart rate, anxiety), says Janicic-Kahric, though it’s not known how many people experience this problem.
In fact, some in the medical community are even skeptical of its existence, Janicic-Kahric says. “But I see patients with these symptoms and would estimate that about 5 percent of Americans experience sugar crash,” she says.
Normal blood sugar levels can range pretty widely, so it’s possible to rapidly yo-yo between these numbers without the symptoms of sugar crash. But if you do experience sugar-crash symptoms — or if you just generally want to stave off having fluctuating blood sugar because it’s taxing on the body — eat your small portion of sweet treats after a meal, says Cheryl Harris, registered dietitian in Fairfax, Va., and owner of Harris Whole Health.
“It really helps to have fiber and protein along with sugar,” Harris says. “It slows things down.”
Even fat helps blunt the blow of pure sugar into the blood stream, she says.
In other words, if you eat the jelly beans after dinner, you are less likely to experience a blood sugar roller-coaster and a subsequent crash.
This probably is why blood-sugar crash is more widely reported among children, Harris says, as kids are more likely to ingest pure sugar, in the form of soda or candy on an empty stomach.
And it doesn’t take much soda to get up to the AHA guideline: A 12-ounce Coca-Cola, for example, is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar — already more than the daily recommended intake.
But what about sugar-packed fruit?
Fruit is different, says Angela Ginn, a Baltimore-based nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“I like to focus on foods that have natural sugars — like fruit,” Ginn says. “And at the same time limit the added, refined sugars.”
In other words, you are not likely to experience a crash from eating too many apples because of the fiber.
Apple juice, on the other hand, lacks fiber, so you could sugar crash from drinking too much, Janicic-Kahric says.
But back to candy: Is it better to eat, say, chocolate-covered nuts than Skittles?
“From a sugar-crash standpoint, yes,” Ginn says. “Anytime you can bring fiber and protein into the mix, it helps,” she says.
So, is it dangerous to experience sudden blood glucose highs and lows?
“It’s disputable,” Janicic-Kahric says. “Does too much insulin cause heart disease? Is a surge of insulin bad?”
It’s not clear, she says.
What we do know is that too much sugar can cause weight gain, and weight gain causes a whole host of health problems including diabetes, she says.
So, how should we monitor how much sugar we consume?
If you like to add sugar yourself, such as with coffee or tea, Ginn suggests monitoring the amount by using sugar cubes (15 calories of sugar per cube).
“If you use sugar in your coffee or tea, this is a way to keep an eye on exactly how much you are using,” Ginn says. It gets harder when refined sugar is already added into a food product, especially those without nutrition labels.
In the end, refined sugar is a relative newcomer on the human dietary scene. It’s seductive and sweet, but maybe the human body isn’t yet equipped to deal with large amounts, Harris says.
“When we evolved it wasn’t common that we knocked down a beehive to access pure sugar. We got sugar through fruit and berries,” Harris says.
“We didn’t evolve for jelly beans.”
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