Should everyone with Crohn's or UC ditch the fiber?
So today I wanted to talk about another nutrition topic and that is fiber.
Now if you have IBD, then you're probably very aware of what fiber is: the places it's found, and the impact it can have on you, or more importantly, the impact it can have on your intestines!
Fiber is that tough substance that we find in many fruits and vegetables and whole grains and it comes in different types.
We have soluble fiber which we find in things like sweet potatoes, yams, bananas, and normal potatoes. And this tends to be a more gentle type of fiber. Then we have insoluble fiber, which is a lot tougher to break down: think spinach leaves and celery stalks and you'll get be along the right lines!
Is it bad to eat fiber with Crohn's or colitis?
So what I want to talk about today is whether the fiber is the enemy for everybody with IBD. Fiber is actually really essential: when we eat more fiber, it helps food move properly through our gut and it also helps add bulk to our bowel movements and feeds the good bacteria in our gut. However, this also means that if you eat a lot of high fiber foods, the theory goes that you would go to the toilet more often since food would move quickly through the gut.
Obviously, this isn't an ideal situation for those of us with IBD since we go to the toilet often enough by ourselves! However, just because something doesn't sound ideal doesn't mean we should avoid it altogether. So I thought I'd talk about my experiences with fiber today, as well as other people's experiences to show how varied it could be.
Do I eat fiber with Crohn's disease?
Personally, I always try to make an effort to eat fiber when I can. It's not just about IBD; it is really important in helping our gut microbiome and we all know how many different conditions and health issues that can be linked to!
If you're avoiding fiber altogether, it can be really tough to lead a healthy lifestyle (since it's in so much fruit and veg) and have a balanced gut microbiome with such a restricted diet.
However, on the other hand, insoluble fiber foods such as spinach and celery are just really not my friend! I've tried it in different forms. I've even tried it in smoothies or baking chia seeds into cakes. But either way, I always end up on the toilet if I've eaten a lot of insoluble fiber!
Ways that I include fiber in my diet
I'm a lot better we soluble fiber so I'm absolutely fine with things like sweet potato or banana, or peeled apple. That's because these contain soluble fiber which seems to be much more gentle to digest. I also juice vegetables so juicing helps remove some of the fiber in my juicer and that means that I can get the goodness of the fruit and veg without the fiber.
I decided to ask a few of my fellow IBD friends to see what their relationship with fiber is too since we all know food and IBD is such a personal thing...
Personal stories about fiber and IBD
Helen: "I have Crohn's and I'm in remission. I am fine with fiber. Was a different story when I was flaring before surgery though!"
Jason: "I have Crohn's and can easily tolerate soluble fiber (porridge is a staple for me) but struggle badly with most insoluble fiber. My fiber intake is fairly low overall I think!"
Paige: "Now that I am in remission, I can eat fiber with no issues, even with about 30cm less large bowel from a surgery I had 15 years ago. When in flare though, I have to eat low fiber and a low residue diet as it can not only cause pain, bloating, and worsening symptoms but also blockages."
Megan: "I do eat fiber but mostly soluble fiber. I'm trying to introduce some insoluble but nothing too major, just some berries and soups here and there."
Bethan: "I have Crohn's and I can't handle fiber at all. I just don't digest it!"
Honor: "I have UC and eat mountains of fiber in remission so heaps of veg, nuts, seeds, and all my carbs in brown/whole grain. The more the better! In a bad flare, fiber is still really important to help me feel well and managing my symptoms, but I majorly cut back on the insoluble fiber if things are severe."
Samantha: "I have Crohn’ and have to be careful. Smoothies are my way to get it in mostly. Found snap peas and spinach were a raw food I could eat so it's trial and error and an understanding of timing that worked for me."
I'd love to hear your thoughts: do you find you can eat fiber or is it something you need to manage?
What type of IBD have you been diagnosed with?