Eating during irritable bowel disease (IBD) flares
Most inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients report benefits from restricting their diet during flares.
However, restricting your diet can put you at an increased risk of dehydration and protein-calorie malnutrition. Most patients need more calories, but they tend to restrict their diet to eating more foods that decrease stool output to limit their IBD symptoms.
While this is a short-term solution, it is important to know how to manage your symptoms during a flare while also getting adequate nutrition to prevent these potential risks.
Listen to your body
Every IBD patient is different.
Disease varies from one patient with irritable bowel syndrome to the next; they experience different symptoms and have varying food reactions. That's why it's important to listen to your body to know how to manage your IBD flares.
Some individuals find that they cannot tolerate foods during the flare that they otherwise can normally tolerate.
Once you figure out your potential triggers, it is best to avoid those foods that worsen your flare symptoms until the flare subsides.
These are some foods that commonly increase symptoms during a flare:
- Caffeine (increases motility, dehydration)
- Alcohol (increases dehydration)
- Spicy foods
- High-fat foods
- Foods high in sugar and fiber
Liquids are often tolerated better than solids; therefore, supplements may be something to consider.
Nutrition tips to help you through your flare
- Make sure to get adequate calorie and protein intake.
- Liquid protein supplements/powders (preferably whey) can be used as meals or frequently throughout the day to help increase protein-calorie intake.
- If lactose intolerant, use milk substitutes, such as almond milk, rice milk, lactose-free milk or coconut milk.
- Avoid common food triggers: spicy food, high-saturated or trans-fatty foods, high-fiber and high-sugar.
- Maintain hydration—in addition to water, drink fluids high in electrolytes. For example: G2, Propel or Powerade Zero, or you can make your own oral rehydration solution with 1 liter of water, 6 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt.
After your IBD flare
After your flare, you should gradually add foods back into your diet.
Start slowly and eat small portions. Try adding back one food at a time.
Sometimes patients with IBD may have anxiety over particular foods that will take time to recover from.
You can always make an appointment with your registered dietitian at our Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases to help you get back on track with your nutrition and help give you guidance to prevent nutritional deficiencies after your IBD flare.