an older man sitting and writing in a sort of journal while he thinks of the various foods that are safe for his gut

I'd Love to Eat "Healthier," but My Crohn's Has Other Ideas

Last updated: January 2023

"Healthy" eating is hard. I know it's hard for everyone but even more so for Crohn's and colitis sufferers. It's hard to know what foods to eat when it comes to IBD. Malnutrition is a major part of the battle. But the important thing to remember when it comes to trying to figure it out... No single diet works for everyone.

What can I eat?

There are hundreds of books on the market today, some identical, some written by doctors or dieticians, and some by actual IBD patients. Over many years of struggling with trying to figure out what to eat, I've read and tried many of the suggestions in these books.

Many of the foods, and even drinks, that were suggested in these books I could not even try because I knew what would happen if I did. I figured the only way to get a book with exactly what I need and what I can eat to maintain weight, or maybe even try and gain weight, is to write one myself.

Keeping an IBD food journal

I kept a food journal for many years in the beginning in hopes to discover what I could and could not eat either during a Crohn's flare or just every day. It became quite handy and I recommend it to anyone who is struggling with food and IBD. I also found that it changed from day to day depending on how I was feeling.

Many of us have some of the same things we avoid, but I've noticed that what some others can tolerate, I cannot. I kept track of what I ate, when I ate it, if it caused pain, and how soon after eating I had to go to the toilet. Did it cause gas? Was there urgency? Loose stool or not, did I have anything to drink with it, etc.?

IBD trigger foods can feel completely random

Many things I found strange like I could not drink instant coffee, but I could drink brewed coffee. Instant coffee caused pain and urgency but not brewed coffee. (But I tend not to drink coffee anymore.) I could eat yogurt and frozen yogurt but not ice cream. I am assuming because yogurt has natural bacteria? I am not totally sure. Most dairy is out of the question because of urgency or watery output with an ostomy.

I am, though, on a steady diet of smooth peanut butter. It's one of my "go to" proteins. It needs to be smooth peanut butter because I need to avoid nuts. Nuts, a great source of fat and other nutrients, can cause blockages with the stricturing from Crohn's. I can eat most meats except for turkey. Again, turkey causes gas which is quite a bummer at Christmas time.

Healthy eating with Crohn's or colitis

I always had people telling me that I should just "eat better" and somehow they assumed my illness would go away? While I would love to eat healthier, my Crohn's has other ideas.

So many good foods cause me grief, like green leafy vegetables, which are good for many different vitamins that I am lacking. Many others cause painful gas. I cannot eat any raw vegetables. Everything needs to be steamed or cooked down to be soft. I haven't had milk in 3 decades or anything that contains milk, and even most dairy products, though I can eat mild hard cheeses.

I would love to be able to eat fruit but I seem to be only able to eat bananas. Most fruit has either a skin or a coating containing fiber, making me run to the toilet. I know some IBDers swear by juicing, but that would have me spending the day on the toilet! LOL.

What food doesn't bother my Crohn's?

Junk food though seems to be okay, though! No matter how much I'd eat, I didn't gain any weight. Non-IBD people seem to envy me that I could eat and eat and still not gain weight... Ugh.

Now that I have an ostomy, Jujubes and marshmallows are part of my diet as they, for me, help thicken my output. Also since my ostomy surgery, I can now eat instant oatmeal without any problems whereas prior to my ostomy, oatmeal would cause urgency. Nowadays, it helps thicken my output.

Eating with an ostomy

Even after almost 35 years of struggling what to eat, now with an ostomy, I am re-discovering different foods and drinks I can tolerate that I may not have been able to before my surgery. The urgency is gone. I still avoid the foods I know may cause me grief, but now I need to watch for foods and drinks that could cause watery output.

A food (and drink) journal is always a good idea to help navigate the complicated Crohn's and colitis world of food and drink. And eating a "healthy" diet is whatever makes you get through the day, week, or month.

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