Is your IBD getting in the way of your love affair with food?


Chocolate cupcakes with one missing a bite

Cropped image. Xsomnis, Flickr. CC License.

Food can be considered as a universal language. We use food to communicate love and affection or sympathy and condolences. Certain dishes may be made on special occasions like Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, or evoke memorable experiences like baking a cake with your child for the first time. Ice cream or French fries are good comfort food after a breakup. Peanuts, popcorn and potato chips are mandatory for my husband during football season! Food brings people together and is a necessity. But what do you do if you have a chronic medical condition in which food may play an important ingredient in maintaining your health?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition that affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis (UC) are two types of IBD. IBD occurs when there is inflammation along the GI tract. UC affects the colon, whereas Crohn’s may affect the entire digestive system.

Common symptoms of IBD include severe abdominal pain/cramping, frequent diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue and even failure to grow in children with Crohn’s. Proper absorption of nutrients and minerals is a major concern. However, stomach pain and diarrhea may suppress your appetite while other foods may aggravate your GI tract. There is no one diet that can cure IBD and various foods will affect people differently. Below are some tips on how to manage IBD and enjoy the savory delectableness of food.

Every chef has a team

The sous chef, line cook, expeditor, grill cook, sauté chef, dessert chef and whoever else is in the kitchen all work together to make a fabulous meal and experience. Work with your team of doctors and medical professionals, such as a dietician or nutritionist, to determine an individualized menu that may decrease the effects from inflammation and provide the nutrients that you need or even help to decrease the frequency of inflammation.

Know your kitchen

Most great cooks become familiar with their stoves, ovens and cookware. They can tell the difference between something cooked on an electric vs. a gas stove. Not all ovens are made the same and neither is the human body. You may want to keep a journal of how various foods affect your body. Are there certain foods that provide physical relief? Greasy, fried foods and caffeine may agitate the GI tract. Even healthy foods that cause gas such as beans, broccoli and cabbage may disrupt the GI tract. Other things that can upset your stomach are stress, nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil or Motrin, antibiotics and smoking.

Made to order

There may be some meals and foods you will have to customize in order to still enjoy it but not experience such discomfort. For example, try sweet potato fries instead of French fries or make your own baked potato chips. Grill foods instead of frying them. Experimenting with foods and tastes can be fun and exciting. There are many cookbooks that exist specifically related to IBD with their own twist on various recipes.

You don’t have to break up with food if you have IBD, but you will have to make sure that you are making healthy decisions and pay attention to how certain foods affect your body. Food can be healing. When nutritious foods are consumed, they can help lessen the recovery period when inflammation does occur.

– Carnigee Truesdale-Howard, PsyD, ABPP, Pediatric Psychologist with Beaumont Children’s Hospital Divisions of Hematology/Oncology & Gastroenterology

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