My Crohn's Disease Diet: Consistency vs. Boredom
Last updated: October 2023
When I began struggling with symptoms of Crohn's disease 11 years ago, I instantly realized that avoiding trigger foods and drinks gave me the best chance of protecting myself against unwanted symptoms.
While managing IBD has a million more components (medication, mental health, routine, rest, stress management, etc.), my attitude towards food hasn't changed much over time.
I often get asked as an IBD patient if I've tried this diet or that diet, and my answer is always, "Yes, and..."
Identifying my safe foods
In the early years of my disease, I tried everything I could. Some things helped marginally more than others, but nothing that was worth the diet management or sacrifice long term. And... Instead, I returned over and over again to my constant truth – for me, carbs are safe. Carbs are filling. Carbs won't hurt (as much).
During my flare days, this is a survival tactic. My life is filled with bread and bagels and cereal and crackers, potatoes and pasta, and rice. On those days, that list of foods is the best chance I have at eating, keeping food down, and not regretting my choices.
During my remission days, those choices remain in my diet as background suggestions. Some are staples in my regular routine (in small doses), and then when I feel confident I can branch out slowly in comfortable ways.
Consistency in IBD management
Consistency, for my IBD, has always been most important. Diet changes happen slow and steady, not quickly or all at once. My body has alerted me that it needs time to decide on and adjust to new food intake options and patterns, and I’ve tried hard to honor that request.
But consistency can be... boring
However, lately, I've been struggling with the challenge that consistency, for me, has also equaled boredom. I'm feeling frustrated with my inability to eat a broader range of foods or to re-incorporate foods that have upset my GI tract in the past.
Especially lately, when everything feels very repetitive, this challenge has led to restlessness and resentment around both mealtime and snacks.
Frustrations about always feeling limited
Today I want to talk about how I’m working to overcome this sense of frustration in case anyone else is feeling this way too!
First, identifying and communicating about this has been instrumental for me. Instead of stewing in my feelings, realizing where they were coming from and explaining them to my partner felt really helpful.
I wasn't mad that I had to eat dinner, or even that I had to plan or make dinner. I was frustrated that my choices in what I could eat felt extremely limited.
Coping with limited food choices
Next, (online) grocery shopping with an open mind gave me some new options to try. On days or weeks when I am limited in the types of food I can eat, having choices within that list is really helpful.
My family has chosen to only grocery shop online (for curbside pickup or delivery) and this has made browsing a bit more challenging – however, it also comes with less physical stress and exertion. Instead of typing an item into the search bar, I find myself trying to browse by category more often so new options pop up.
Taking to your GI
Finally, if your consistent/safe diet is frustrating you, I highly recommend sharing this with your GI doctor. They may have suggestions for things in tangential categories you can add to your safe food list, or they may be able to connect you with someone who does.
Ultimately, it's important for IBD patients to know they're not alone in any aspect of their struggles, including those that may seem “trivial” like limited food options.
If you've struggled with any of these feelings, what has helped you most to balance your need for consistency with your frustrations of boredom?
Does living with IBD impact you financially?