What Causes UC/Crohn’s Flare-Ups?
Flare-ups happen when your gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes inflamed. The most common reasons for flare-ups include:
- skipping your medication
- taking the wrong medication
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- GI-irritating foods
If you’ve eliminated the first five items on that list, you’re probably on the hunt for a diet that keeps your GI tract happy (subsequently reducing the stress in your life).
Popular Diets for UC/Crohn’s
Different diets work for different people. Most of the popular diets of the day don’t have the clinical research available to support a true endorsement. As always, the best way to figure out what diet works for you is to keep a food journal and to discuss your patterns and findings with your healthcare provider. With that in mind, some people have found success by following the below regimes.
The Paleo diet tries to mimic the diet our hunter-gatherer ancestors may have eaten. It restricts dairy, grains, legumes, refined sugars, and encourages people to eat natural, whole foods as often as possible. The body derives energy from lean proteins and fats rather than excessive carbohydrates. Emphasis is placed on eating plenty of vegetables and moderate fruits. Proponents believe the diet reduces inflammation within the body. Opponents believe the diet is more restrictive than necessary, and that it could cause nutrient deficiencies, excessive weight loss, or problems with cholesterol, blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. There are some promising studies supporting aspects of the Paleo diet, but more evidence is still needed.
The Keto or Ketogenic diet is in some ways an offshoot of the Paleo diet. The main difference with the Keto diet is that it reduces carbohydrates at what some would call an extreme level. Most versions of the Keto diet recommend reducing net carbs (or total carbs minus fiber) to 20 or fewer grams per day. It is also a high-fat diet, with low to moderate amounts of protein. Proponents believe the diet reduces inflammation in the body and improves the gut’s microbiome. Opponents have the same concerns as they do with the Paleo diet, especially given the emphasis on eating large amounts of fat. Some research supports the ketogenic diet for indications such as epilepsy, cancer and obesity, but more research is needed to determine long-term effects on other conditions.
Low FODMAP Diet
A gastroenterologist and registered dietitian teamed up to create the Low FODMAP diet. Clinical studies showed improvement of symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s or colitis, which gives it more credibility within the traditional healthcare industry. The acronym FODMAP stands for the following:
- Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols
These are all types of short-chain carbohydrates that can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation. FODMAPs to avoid include:
- some grains, including wheat, rye and barley
- dairy (specifically lactose)
- some fruits, like bananas, apples figs, mangoes and blackberries
- sweeteners, including honey, agave and low- or zero-calorie sweeteners
- certain vegetables, like cauliflower, garlic, onions, mushrooms, peas
If your flare-ups tend to include these symptoms, the Low FODMAP Diet might be a good one to try. However, this diet doesn’t reduce inflammation, so keep up with your prescribed medications and treatment program.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or SCD, was originally developed to treat celiac disease. Celiac patients cannot tolerate any gluten, a mixture of two proteins found in wheat. SCD limits all carbohydrates except for simple carbs (called monosaccharides), because they’re easier for the intestines to absorb than complex carbs. There is some evidence to support SCD when used in combination with other therapies.