T.E. Vallabhan, MD, FACC
Crohn’s disease is part of the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) group. Crohn’s disease frequently affects the top of the colon and the end of the small bowel, although it can also affect any area of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Over 20% of the population has IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), but that’s not accounting for the nearly 3 million Americans that suffer from the symptoms of IBD and Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s Disease Symptoms (can be mild to severe):
• Changes in bowel habits
• Persistent Diarrhea
• Rectal bleeding
• Urgent need to move bowels
• Abdominal cramps and pain
• Sensations of needing to relieve bowels further after a BM
Eating When You are in a Flare1
There are certain foods you may want to avoid when you are in an IBD flare, and others that may help you get the right amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals without making your symptoms worse.
Your healthcare team may put you on an elimination diet, in which you avoid certain foods in order to identify which trigger symptoms. This process will help you identify common foods to avoid during a flare. Elimination diets should only be done under the supervision of your healthcare team and a dietitian so they can make sure you are still receiving the necessary nutrients.
Some foods may trigger cramping, bloating, and/or diarrhea. Many trigger foods should also be avoided if you have been diagnosed with a stricture, a narrowing of the intestine caused by inflammation or scar tissue or have had a recent surgery. Certain foods can be easier to digest and can provide you with the necessary nutrients your body needs.
Foods IBD Patients May Tolerate
• Low-fiber fruits: bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and cooked fruits. This is typically recommended in patients who have strictures or have had a recent surgery
• Fully cooked, seedless, skinless, non-cruciferous vegetables: asparagus tips, cucumbers, potatoes, and squash
• Lean protein: fish, lean cuts of pork, white meat poultry, soy, eggs, and firm tofu
• Oral nutritional supplements or homemade protein shakes: ask your doctor or your dietitian about what supplements may fit your nutritional needs
• Refined grains: sourdough, potato or gluten-free bread, white pasta, white rice, and oatmeal
Potential Trigger Foods To Avoid
• Insoluble fiber foods that are hard to digest: fruits with skin and seeds, raw green vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or anything with a peel), whole nuts, and whole grains
• Sugary foods: pastries, candy, and juices
• Lactose: sugar found in dairy, such as milk, cream cheese, and soft cheeses
• Non-absorbable sugars: sorbitol, mannitol, and other sugar alcohols found in sugar-free gum, candy, ice cream, and certain types of fruits and juices such as pear, peach, and prune
• High fat foods: butter, coconut, margarine, and cream, as well as fatty, fried, or greasy food
• Alcohol and caffeinated drinks: beer, wine, liquor, soda, and coffee
• Spicy foods: “hot” spices
Medication and diet are not always effective for treating advanced IBD and Crohn’s disease specifically. In certain situations, surgery is vital for proper bowel function and improving one’s overall health systemically. Surgical treatments for Crohn’s disease are fistula, and abscess removal, strictureplasty, colectomy, proctocolectomy, and in many of these cases, resection will be necessary.
The Crohn’s Disease and Heart Disease Connection
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that is not limited to the digestive system, but rather the whole body, including the cardiovascular system. Over long periods of sustained Crohn’s disease, studies indicate that there is an increased risk of heart disease and disorders due to inflammation.
In June 2017, a published study in the journal Heart suggested that long-term inflammation can lead to atherosclerosis, which escalates heart disease and stroke. The inflammatory response has also been connected with increased risk of hypertension and depression, which are both strong risk factors for heart disease.
If you have Crohn’s disease, talk to your cardiologist as well as your gastroenterologist about your cardiovascular risk factors, and treatment options.
It’s your heart. It should be personal. And that’s how I treat it.
Dr. Thiruvallur Vallabhan is devoted to keeping your heart at its healthiest. Dr. Vallabhan is a Board Certified Cardiologist, and his mission is to provide The Villages and its surrounding communities with the highest quality cardiac care in a welcoming environment. He and his staff are dedicated to fulfilling the specific cardiac needs of each patient.
To find out more information on the Dr. Vallabhan, your local specialists in the diseases of the heart, veins, and arteries, please call (352) 750-2040 or visit them online at, Drvcardio.com
Rolling Oaks Professional Park
929 N US HWY 441, Suite 201
Lady Lake, FL 32159