In the past few years there has been increased awareness around a variety of gastrointestinal problems. IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, acid reflux and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) impact the lives of hundreds of thousands in our country alone. As a UC sufferer myself, I can tell you that while diet is not the root cause of these issues, it does play a big role in the symptoms of these diseases–especially when they are in their active stage, otherwise known as "flares." Diet modification and avoiding specific foods are required for most with these diseases, but it’s important to ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals both fruits and vegetables provide to keep yourself healthy.
Diet is a big challenge for those who suffer from these conditions as well as parents of those who suffer from them (Crohn’s and UC frequently strike in young children and teens). Until I was diagnosed a few years ago, I was a big salad fan and would consume large salads with a variety of raw veggies on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I find that most raw vegetables are now a no-no for me. Rather than omit or reduce the amount I consumed, I had to figure out how to prepare them in a way that would be tolerable for my condition. Let me stress that a solution may be different for each person–what works for me may not necessarily work for someone else. I’ll give you some ideas and guidelines, but it’s important to keep a food diary so that you can track which foods don’t agree with you and make further modifications.
- Fiber Fears – While fiber has lots of health benefits for the average person, it can be a problem for those with stomach conditions. As mentioned, raw veggies contain a lot of fiber and can be difficult for the body to break down. I find that cooking veggies eliminates the problem for me. Remove skins and seeds to further reduce potential irritants.
- Wheat – Celiac disease sufferers, in particular, must avoid wheat products as they are allergic to the gluten in wheat. Today, many grocery items can be found gluten-free and some restaurants are now offering gluten-free alternatives on their menus. Corn and rice products are many times a great substitute for wheat.
- Fatty Foods – Foods high in fat are difficult to digest. Try to avoid deep frying or adding a lot of oils or creams to your recipes. Broiling, steaming and roasting are better cooking options and much healthier too!
It’s amazing how much better I feel when I eat the appropriate, well-balanced foods. My own trick has been to incorporate easy-to-digest fruits and vegetables to my diet. Applesauce, melon, cooked veggies and roasted or mashed sweet potatoes are all well tolerated and provide me with much needed nutrients. I encourage you to visit our Fruit & Vegetable Nutrition Database. It will provide you with nutrition information on a wide variety of fruits and veggies so you can decide what works best for you. Also see our related About the Buzz to get additional info on how fruits and veggies impact GI problems.