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Safe Foods: IBD & Pregnancy

Safe foods. A uniquely personal definition, an honestly life-changing concept for those in need.

I quickly learned my safe foods after diagnosis

Nine years ago, shortly after I began experiencing symptoms of IBD, I quickly learned that there were certain foods that I could tolerate more often than not. Regardless of their nutritional value, these food items became the things I relied so heavily on. While some have had luck with the faithful BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) or giving up certain categories like dairy, or gluten, or sugar, I have mostly lived in the realm of carb safety – crackers, rice, pasta, bread, rolls.

These safe foods have been essential at certain times

Safe foods were especially paramount to me when I needed to function as a human being. Whether it was to go to work, to run to the grocery store, or to think straightly. There seemed to generally be a better chance of my retaining the energy from the food, and less of a chance of my rushing to the bathroom after eating the food than nearly anything else I tried.

During my Crohn’s disease flares over the years, I always returned to some version of carb life when my stomach was in ruins and I wasn’t keeping much else inside. I often felt like eating was this ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad’ thing I was forced to do, and so many times I wished to just skip food altogether. My safe foods very rarely have let me down over the years, and for that, I have an endless amount of gratitude.

I finally was able to add more food variety into my life

I switched to Remicade infusions in March 2017. By about August, although we were still playing with the dose and frequency of infusions, I was having more good days than bad ones for the first time in years. My IBD became more stable than anytime previously, and I found that I had all this new flexibility in what I was able to eat. I entered a chapter of my life in which I sometimes even enjoyed the food. Something so so different than the many years before. I was able to fill my plate, and my diet, with things that sounded good to me, things I was interested in trying, things that had actual nutritional value. I began to meal plan – a luxury I had never had before, and I really enjoyed it. I knew that it might not last, so I focused on the benefits while they existed.

Back to the safe foods

In September, my husband and I went through our second round of In-Vitro Fertilization, which successfully resulted in my current pregnancy with our first child. During my first trimester, I have experienced morning sickness in the form of daily nausea with periodic vomiting, and my bowels have gone through some confusion. My “regular” bowel movements transitioned back to diarrhea a few times a day due to the hormones of pregnancy, which meant that everything I had gotten used to in the year before changed really quickly!

I realized fairly quickly when I was feeling queasy or like my stomach was upset that I was reaching for the things I’ve always known as safe foods – carbs. At first, I felt concerned. Would my safety food default diet mean that my baby wasn’t getting enough nutrients? Both my GI and OB doctors re-assured me that for a mom in the first trimester, the goal is to eat whatever you can, whenever you can. The baby will take what the baby needs, unabashedly so, and a lot of that will come from the prenatal vitamins you’re taking. The doctors said the most important thing I needed to focus on was staying hydrated. Luckily, life with IBD has made me a pro at that!

I have found it fascinating that this safety diet, the one I have defaulted to so often in the last nine years, has now served me beyond IBD flares. I didn’t expect to utilize this strategy during pregnancy, or in other times in my life, but here I am grateful to have options, and understanding of the things that generally keep my guts calm.

With IBD, chronic illness, surgery, or during other times in your life, how have your safe foods offered you security + relief?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.