Feb. 9, 2023 – For people living with inflammatory bowel disease or chronic digestive problems, eating can be tricky. Some people avoid certain foods when they cook at home, for example, for fear they could trigger troublesome GI symptoms. At the same time, like everyone else, people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can benefit from a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
One possible solution is a free online tool with more than 500 recipes designed especially for people with IBD. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, in conjunction with Nestlé Health Sciences, launched the Gut Friendly Recipes site Jan. 31 to help people create meals without missing out on nutrition.
“This is a terrific new resource … but it’s important to make sure patients and their care providers understand that these diets and recipes are not meant to be a substitute for managing the inflammatory disease with their doctors and health care teams,” says David T. Rubin, MD, chair of the National Scientific Advisory Committee for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
Beyond the recipes, the Gut Friendly Recipes website features information about nutrition, symptoms, and disease monitoring, says Rubin, who is chief of the Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at the University of Chicago.
Multiple Diets, Multiple Choices
There is some flexibility built into the tool. People can search for specific recipes based on their needs, filter meals by dietary exclusions, ingredients, and allergens, or create a 7-day meal plan. The site also features meals according to multiple diets, including the Crohn’s disease exclusion diet, low FODMAP diet (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols), the Mediterranean diet, and specific carbohydrate diet.
“Personally, I am excited to have this resource to share with my patients who have IBD. Having multiple diet types along with the ability to filter out specific foods is quite useful as there is not one ‘cookie-cutter’ diet we offer every single patient with IBD,” says Emily A. Haller, a registered dietitian nutritionist and GI-specialized dietitian at the University of Michigan.
“Dietary recommendations and needs are individualized, and it appears this resource was designed with that in mind,” Haller says.
Just Avoiding Some Foods Can Be a Problem
People with IBD usually find that there are certain foods that trigger a flare. Some people may not tolerate raw vegetables, while others can tolerate some fresh produce. Others find that they have specific food sensitivities that cause inflammation and trigger a flare, says Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian and consulting nutritionist in San Rafael, CA, who was not affiliated with Gut Friendly Recipes.
“Some people back themselves into a corner with a very limited food intake, which leads to nutrient deficiencies. They are afraid to eat and have a flare, so they eat very few foods,” Angelone says.
A proper elimination diet can help identify food triggers, but the process can be challenging and frustrating for the unfamiliar, Angelone says. Instead, she suggests people work with a registered dietitian nutritionist to determine the foods that are problematic.
Many patients struggle with knowing what to eat and restrict their diet for different reasons, says Haller. “In clinic we spend a lot of time working with patients on diet liberalization and find foods/meals that work well for them.”
In addition to preventing or correcting malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, maintaining lean body mass, promoting healing of mucous membranes in the intestines, minimizing gut symptoms, supporting a good relationship with food, and improving a person’s food-related quality of life are among the additional goals of nutrition for people with IBD, Haller says.
The recipes could evolve over time as the science advances. “There is outstanding ongoing research occurring to better understand how diet and food are related to IBD, some of which is funded by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation,” Rubin said. “And we are making very good progress in understanding the complex relationship between food and the immune system in our bowels.”
Gut Friendly Recipes is available online at www.gutfriendlyrecipes.org.