Foods to Avoid if You Have Crohn’s Disease

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition of the digestive tract that can lead to a wide variety of different symptoms.  There are no definitive cures for Crohn’s disease, which is one of the main forms of inflammatory bowel disease.  As with many other conditions affecting the digestive system, what you eat and drink is likely to have a significant impact on the severity of your symptoms.  This means that you will need to avoid any foods that cause a flare up of symptoms (known as trigger foods), and try eating others instead.  The following foods are ones that should be avoided if you are looking to reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

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  • Nuts.  Usually considered to be one of the healthiest foods that you can eat, nuts are high in fiber and difficult to digest.  The high fiber levels can contribute to diarrheal symptoms, and the rough surface of the nuts, which are not easily broken down, can aggravate the delicate lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Skins of fruit and vegetables.  Another high fiber food that most diets and dietary advice recommend, but these should also be avoided by Crohn’s patients.  However, if you peel all fruits and vegetables before you eat them, it should be possible to eat these without causing severe digestive upsets.  Tinned and cooked fruits and vegetables are sometimes also a better option than eating fresh varieties.
  • Anything that has been deep fried.  Greasy food should never be eaten on a regular basis because it is so unhealthy, regardless of whether or not you have a digestive condition – it contains very high levels of saturated fat, which contributes to a wide variety of health conditions.  However, for anyone who has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, this is particularly important.  Fatty foods are extremely difficult to digest, so are highly likely to cause a flare up of your symptoms.
  • Tomatoes.  Fruit with skin has already been mentioned in this list, which suggests that tomatoes are likely to be a problem, but the other reason they are not advised for Crohn’s patients is the seeds.  Seeds, like nuts, are very difficult to digest, and will aggravate the colon in the same way.  You might think that this will only be a problem in fresh tomatoes, but they also appear to cause digestive upsets when cooked or made into a sauce.  The only way to reliably prevent this from happening is to avoid eating them in any form.
  • Caffeine.  Caffeine is most commonly found in tea, coffee and cola drinks, but can also be present in some chocolate as well.  It frequently aggravates the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal conditions, contributing to the effects of dehydration, which is a common result of diarrhea.  Once a diagnosis of either Crohn’s disease or another form of inflammatory bowel disease has been made, patients often find it necessary to avoid caffeine altogether.

If you need further advice on the foods that you should avoid, speak to your Los Angeles colorectal surgeon, who will be able to offer some suggestions or refer you to a dietician.