Three different types of smoothies are set next to each other as man with a magnifying glass examines the contents and sees a flame/trigger.

Recognizing a Trigger Food

I’m more than a decade into living with IBD. I have spent agonizing days, weeks, months, and years navigating what I eat, how it affects me, how much or little I should eat at a time, how often I should eat, etc. Basically, any way that food affects my gut. I’ve written about my safe foods before, but I haven’t spent much time sharing about my trigger foods. There are a few reasons for this.

The relationship between Crohn's and food

First, I feel like the foods that upset my stomach are pretty common for Crohn’s patients. Second, I despise keeping food journals. During my years of misdiagnosis, I was constantly required to keep a food journal for my doctors, as they were sure there was a food allergy or pattern that would explain the severe GI symptoms I continued to present with. To this day, keeping a food journal is one of my least favorite things to do. And third – I have done nothing to navigate trigger foods besides removing them from my diet completely, which felt like there might not be much to talk about in an article such as this.

But recently, I've been forced to recognize some new trigger foods. And I thought that experience was worth sharing because I know that others can relate. I have done my best to stay vigilant about how my body is responding to foods, especially when things become patterns.

Growing list of Crohn's trigger foods

It's been years since I've eaten popcorn, spicy foods, things with sesame seeds, or tomato sauce. No matter how well I'm feeling, these things automatically cause me significant pain and GI distress. Then, there are things like salads, raw vegetables, and leafy greens, which can be tolerated in small doses when my gut is on its best days.

Recently, I have been making small changes in my diet – some to feel healthier, to have more energy, and some to lose weight. One of those changes involved adding more fruits and vegetables into my daily routine via prepackaged smoothies with a variety of nutrients. The third flavor I tried contained spinach and kale, and even though it tasted delicious and was completely blended, it caused me somewhat instant intestinal agony. I felt so frustrated.

It'd been a long time since I really tried anything new, and I felt like this was my punishment for venturing outside the gut-approved box I'd been living in.

Process of elimination to figure it out

Now, that smoothie obviously had other ingredients. But ingredients that I'd eaten more frequently – blueberry, fig, and walnuts. I spent time thinking about the situation. I had no proof that it was those two ingredients specifically, but my gut told me that it was.

I returned to my freezer and reviewed the other 6 smoothies I had waiting for me. Only one of them contained spinach, and I decided to try it on a day when I had nowhere to be and nothing to do. When I instantly experienced the same reaction – stomach cramps and urgent diarrhea, I knew it had to be eliminated. I was so bummed.

If you try new foods regularly, how do you navigate trigger foods? Do you find your list of "avoid" foods growing?

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