Can the anti-inflammatory diet help with Crohn’s Disease?

Can the anti-inflammatory diet help with Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is a complex chronic disease involving inflammation of the digestive tract. It can lead to painful abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. While not typically life-threatening (although it can be), if left untreated, it can cause serious complications and reduce quality of life. Although there isn’t currently a cure for Crohn’s disease, there are ways to reduce symptoms, limit flare-ups, and reduce overall inflammation.

Can the anti-inflammatory diet help with Crohn's disease?

When it comes to health, it is well understood that what we eat plays a big role. This is especially true with diseases that impact the digestive system, such as Crohn’s disease. Knowing which foods to eat and which to avoid, as well as adopting healthy lifestyle habits, can help ward off unpleasant symptoms and increase the time between flare-ups. As Crohn’s disease is largely an inflammatory condition, eating mostly an anti-inflammatory diet may be especially effective and helpful.

It is important to recognize that everyone has individual needs, and specific diet recommendations will vary from person to person. Recommendations for diet and lifestyle between flare-ups and during a flare-up will also vary. It’s always best to check in with your primary care doctor or dietitian before adopting any new changes.

What is the anti-inflammatory diet?

The anti-inflammatory diet was created and popularized by Harvard-educated Dr. Andrew Weil (our co-founder!).

Inflammation is a natural response to illness and injury and is actually an essential part of the body’s healing process. In some cases, however, the inflammatory response is never “turned off” and can become systemic rather than localized. Chronic systemic inflammation is associated with diseases and conditions such as stroke, respiratory disease, heart disease, cancer, dementia, obesity, and diabetes. A heightened inflammatory response may also damage tissues, organs, and DNA over time. Studies continue to show that unchecked inflammation is linked to the majority of diseases we experience, including Crohn’s disease.   

When it comes to our health, one of the best things we can do is prioritize a healthy diet. The anti-inflammatory diet is meant to be a lifestyle rather than what many of us think of when we hear the term “diet.”  It emphasizes eating anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, teas, spices, olive oil, and nuts while reducing foods such as refined carbohydrates, red meat, fried foods, and margarine.

The anti-inflammatory diet is based on the science of how foods can help you achieve and maintain optimum health. It prioritizes meeting your nutritional needs through food rather than with supplements.

Pillars of the anti-inflammatory diet:

  • Aim for a variety of foods
  • Eat fresh food as often as possible
  • Minimize consumption of processed foods
  • Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables- Prioritizing vegetables over fruit
  • Include a protein, fat, and carbohydrate at each meal
  • Carbohydrates should be in the form of less-refined foods with a lower glycemic index, such as brown rice, winter squashes, beans, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Aim for 40 grams of fiber daily

Can the anti-inflammatory diet help with Crohn’s disease? 

What is the anti-inflammatory diet?

Diet has been shown to significantly impact Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a category of digestive diseases that includes Crohn’s disease. Although it is not the only factor, diet may affect the frequency and severity of flare-ups, for better or worse.

Everyone is different, and triggers can differ from person to person, but common triggers include spicy foods, high-fat foods, artificial sweeteners, coffee, and alcohol. Many of these recommendations align closely with the anti-inflammatory, making it an easy resource for anyone navigating this disease.

The anti-inflammatory diet also encourages eating a wide variety of foods, as many colors as possible, and prioritizing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Adopting this way of eating can greatly increase the odds of meeting your nutritional needs through food, which is an important consideration as people with Crohn’s disease may be especially prone to nutritional deficiencies.

Fiber recommendations for people with Crohn’s disease can vary, and research is mixed. Recent research suggests that adopting a high-fiber diet when possible (in between flare-ups) can help reduce overall symptoms. It is generally advised to eat lower-fiber foods during a flare-up. The anti-inflammatory diet is considered a high-fiber diet and may be helpful for some people who feel good with a high-fiber diet between flare-ups.

Can you drink matcha if you have Crohn’s disease?

Can you drink matcha if you have Crohn's disease?

Tea is a pivotal part of the anti-inflammatory diet, especially green tea and matcha, as it’s a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants and contains potent anti-inflammatory properties. It is generally advised to avoid coffee and high-caffeine drinks if you have Crohn’s disease, as it may increase symptoms. Since matcha is lower in caffeine and also contains l-theanine, an amino acid that counteracts the negative aspects of caffeine, it may make for an excellent choice for some. Matcha is also especially high in catechins, a class of antioxidants that can help prevent inflammation and reduce oxidative stress.

However, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation recommends staying away from all sources of caffeine. Since matcha does contain some caffeine, opting for herbal teas instead might make for the best choice! Options such as our aged black ginger tea and fermented turmeric tea could be excellent options for anyone looking for a soothing beverage with enormous health benefits but no caffeine. Both ginger and turmeric are considered foundations of the anti-inflammatory diet and have potent health properties.

Health benefits of turmeric

Bottom Line:

Crohn’s disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, nutritional deficiencies, and fatigue. Prioritizing a healthy diet and lifestyle can help reduce symptoms and prolong the time between flare-ups. Everyone’s symptoms and triggers will be different, so it’s vital to consult your doctor or dietitian and find a plan that works for you. One diet that may be helpful when it comes to Crohn’s disease is the anti-inflammatory diet, which prioritizes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, spices, and teas while limiting processed and refined carbohydrates, red meat, alcohol, and fried foods- many of the foods people with Crohn’s disease find triggering. The anti-inflammatory could be an excellent resource and guide for anyone with Crohn’s disease, so long as it’s modified to individual needs!

Disclaimer: These statements in this blog post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. It's essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. 


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