A Semi-Vegetarian Diet for Crohn's or Colitis

Last updated: June 2022

I just finished reading "Self-Healing Colitis and Crohn's: The Complete Wholesome Guide To Healing The Gut and Staying Well" by David Klein. It's a very interesting book revolving around how Dr. Klein cured his colitis via a healthy vegan diet. The experience was so transformational that he went on to receive a PhD in natural health and healing and, shortly thereafter, become director of the Colitis & Crohn's Health Recovery Center.

Mixing different food types

While I don't agree with everything Dr. Klein suggests, he taught me a few helpful tricks. For instance, Dr. Klein stresses the importance of food combinations. To take one example, if you are ill, he suggests you avoid mixing 2 or more different food types since this can be difficult to digest. I've tried following his advice and think it helps.

In terms of the healthy vegan diet, Dr. Klein feels this is non-negotiable. This is one point where I think he may be a bit too extreme. Many Crohn's and ulcerative colitis patients have done well on a variety of different diets so I don't think this is necessarily a one-size-fits-all disease. Additionally, some patients probably benefit from eating meat periodically.

Semi-vegetarian diet with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's

Why? Well, for one, outside of juicing, a lot of plant-based options have fiber, which can aggravate our sensitive digestive tract. Secondarily, many IBD sufferers already have low energy and/or are protein deficient, making a small quantity of meat potentially helpful.

Yes, I've learned from Netflix documentaries like "The Game Changers" that most vegans do get enough protein and you can be just as strong on a plant-based diet, but when you throw in malabsorption issues, shortened bowels, and other debilitating aspects of IBD, the picture becomes significantly more murky. Finally, many of us already have enough dietary restrictions without adding new food categories to the mix.

Trying a mostly plant-based diet (with some meat)

That said, I'm in agreement that fruits and vegetables are generally really healthy for us, particularly when they are prepared in a way that makes them easy to digest (such as juicing). Hence, an excellent option, at least initially, seems to be a largely plant-based diet with a small portion of either meat, chicken, or fish each week. This is the diet I was on for about 6 months before going completely vegan more recently – a diet, incidentally, with some scientific evidence supporting this protocol.

Research on semi-vegetarian diets for IBD

According to an article in "The World Journal of Gastroenterology," Crohn's patients who achieved remission and adhered to a predominantly plant-based diet – what they deemed SVD (semi-vegetarian diet) – had a much lower chance of relapse. At one point in the article, the authors state: "Remission was maintained in 15 of 16 patients (94%) in the SVD group vs two of six (33%) in the omnivorous group. Remission rate with SVD was 100% at 1 year and 92% at 2 years. SVD showed significant prevention in the time to relapse compared to that in the omnivorous group."1

Worth a try for Crohn's or UC?

After reading this study and other books on diet, I think the SVD diet is one all IBD patients should consider. It seems to strike a nice balance. Most days patients can eat healthy fruits, vegetables, rice, tofu, nuts, and beans, and, if you're not vegan, things like boiled eggs. At the same time room is left once a week for wild-caught fish or lean meats. (Incidentally, in the study, participants had fish once a week and meat once every other week, both at half a normal portion size.)

The great part about this diet is it is not only healthy for you but can serve as a potential gateway to the vegan lifestyle. It did for me. I noticed I was better on it, acclimated, and eventually was able to drop meat altogether.

Furthermore, since you rarely eat meat on this diet, you really make those moments count and generally eat high-quality meat. I did at least, for example, ordering elk from a company in Wyoming, which is leaner, nutrient-dense meat that is supposedly better for your health. All in all, I highly recommend trying out the SVD protocol.

What works for your IBD?

What diet works best for you? Would ever consider a plant-based or semi-plant-based protocol? Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments below.

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