Diet can ease symptoms of Crohn's disease and colitis

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- More than a million people in the United States suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. And while we don't know what causes them, we do know that genetic and environmental components are at the root of these autoimmune diseases.

Crohn’s disease can affect the entire digestive tract while ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon. Symptoms can severely disrupt patients’ lives. They include persistent abdominal pain and cramping, frequent diarrhea, fever, vomiting, bleeding, nausea, and fatigue.

IBD can occur at any age, with most patients diagnosed between ages 15 and 30. But not always. "It doesn't just happen to adults," says registered dietician Tiffani Bachus. "It can happen to kids as well." 

Tiffani's daughter, Emily Bachus, was diagnosed at age 9, and her best friend, Samantha, was diagnosed a year later. As many as 1.4 million people in the United States have IBD; an estimated 35,000 IBD patients like Emily and Samantha live in Arizona.

Although food cannot cure or prevent IBD, certain foods can “trigger” symptoms. Unfortunately everyone is affected by food differently. However, there are certain foods that may cause GI distress and are best to avoid during a time of inflammation – “flare”.

Foods such as, high fiber foods (i.e. raw vegetables, nuts and seeds), high-fat foods (greasy, fried), caffeine, alcohol, gluten, spicy foods, and dairy. Adhering to a bland, simple, low-residue, low fiber diet is best during an active flare.

"You want to get the flare down," Bachus explains. "Any foods that trigger your digestive tract to have those symptoms, you want to calm down the system right away, with what we call the BRAT diet." That diet includes bananas, rice, applesauce, and turkey.

During a state of remission it is possible to begin slowly increasing a variety of highly nutritional foods (as tolerated) such as lean protein (chicken, turkey, beans, soy, fish), deeply colored vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, avocado and EVOO, oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa, rice, amaranth.

"A good healthy diet is really important," Bachus says. "But stay away from the high fiber foods."

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCFA) has been the leader in the fight against Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It has provided $150 million in research dollars and has facilitated the development of more than eighty medications. In addition, CCFA sponsors educational events, Camp Oasis, and the Information Resource Center, which responds directly to patients’questions (888-694-8872).

This Saturday, April 27, CCFA will hold its Take Steps for the Cure Walk at the Kiwanis Park in Tempe where patients, their families, and communities will raise money to find a cure for IBD and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases.

Registration starts at 4 pm; walk starts at 5 pm. There will be delicious snacks, fun children's activities, live music, and exciting entertainment. Various booths will provide information about sponsors and resources. For more information contact