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While there is no proof that diet can cause Crohn’s disease, some foods and beverages can worsen symptoms, especially during a flare-up. Some people find it useful to keep a food diary as a record of what they eat and how these foods make them feel. Low fat foods can be particularly helpful, as you may not be able to digest or absorb fat normally, which can worsen diarrhea. Butter, margarine, heavy cream and fried foods are particularly important to avoid. You should also limit dairy, as many people with Crohn’s disease find that their symptoms improve when they reduce or eliminate dairy from their diet.
While fiber is often recommended to the general public for a healthy digestive system, it can actually worsen Crohn’s symptoms in some people, especially in people who have narrowing in the bowel. Thus, high-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, should be steamed, baked or stewed to lower their fiber content.
Spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine can also worsen symptoms because they tend to stimulate the intestines. Eating several small meals daily may make you feel better than eating three large ones, because smaller meals are easier for your gut to digest.
In some cases a special diet is given via a feeding tube or injected into a vein to improve overall nutrition and allow the bowel to rest. Bowel rest can reduce inflammation in the short term. Sometimes doctors will recommend a low-fiber diet to reduce the risk of intestinal blockage if there is a narrowed bowel (stricture). The goal of a low fiber diet is reduction of the size and number of stools.