Nutrition and IBD

Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic

Nutrition and IBD

Fruits and vegetablesNutrition 101

Nutrition is very important for patients with IBD. Keeping a food journal is important in order to find out what foods help or hurt your IBD symptoms. Although diet and nutrition are not what cause IBD, they can both help reduce the side effects of IBD.

Quick Tips

  • Eating foods like white bread or bananas can help reduce these symptoms? Since diarrhea causes dehydration, Gatorade and other electrolyte drinks can also help.
  • Sometimes when you are having a flare up it might be helpful to eat many small meals instead of three large meals.
  • YogurtFoods with probiotics, found in dairy products, are also good for people with IBD. The probiotics are good bacteria that can help restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestine and also help aid in healing the intestine. Probiotics have been shown to be effective in maintaining remission of ulcerative colitis.
  • For teens with IBD, getting enough calcium is essential to your overall health and well-being. Calcium intake is important because IBD patients have a greater risk for weak bones and malnutrition. Teens with IBD need up to 1,500 mg of calcium daily. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and nutrient-enriched cereal are high in calcium and are good food sources to fulfill this daily value. Patients with intolerance to lactose can take a multivitamin high in calcium to meet their calcium intake.
  • Along with calcium, it has been shown that some IBD patients also have difficulty getting enough Vitamin D. This could be due to a low Vitamin D diet or trouble absorbing Vitamin D by the intestine. Due to the stresses associated with IBD, some patients may have trouble going outdoors and getting enough sunlight, an important ingredient in the absorption of Vitamin D. On average people with IBD might need around 800 to 1,000 units of Vitamin D a day. Patients may need higher amounts of Vitamin D if they are deficient in Vitamin D already.
  • Fish oil has many anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown in some scientific studies to reduce the inflammation caused by IBD. These studies are not conclusive, however, and research is still ongoing. Eating two servings of fish per week is also recommended for patients with IBD.

Healthy Foods

Fruits and vegetablesAre all the foods on your plate brown and white? That’s so boring! Add some color to your diet. The brighter the color of a fruit or vegetable, the more nutrients it has and the better it is for you. Fresh, natural foods, like fruits and veggies are best.

Processed foods, like TV dinners, chips, or canned fruits and veggies, have the least amount of nutrients, and are not as healthy as foods that you prepare yourself. Frozen fruits and veggies are good, especially in the winter, when it’s hard to buy fresh fruits and veggies.


Getting the right amount of nutrients and vitamins is important for everyone, but especially for young people with IBD. That’s because in IBD, the intestines don’t absorb nutrients as well. That’s why we sometimes become deficient in vitamins A, B, D, E and K (meaning that we don’t have enough of these important vitamins in our bodies). Also, we may not have enough calcium or iron.

Nutritional Therapy Rather Than Medication

There is an option to medication that is called nutritional therapy. You drink special formulas that will contain a majority of the calories you need per day. If you’re not able to drink this formula, you could get this formula through a special tube that goes to your stomach and you could place the tube yourself every day without staying in the hospital. The formula will treat your Crohn’s and also provide your body with important nutrients that might not be absorbed well since you have IBD.

More About Nutritional Therapy

When you start nutritional therapy, you will need to either drink the formula or have it put in the tube that goes from your nose to your stomach every day for at least six to eight weeks. You could choose to have the tube stay in your stomach all the time during this six weeks or you could put the tube in every night before you take the formula. You can still eat other foods but it should be small portions that equal the size of a small snack.

In order for the treatment to be effective, 90 percent of your daily calories should come from the formula. After this time, you could have a break and eat regular food for the next three months but then you should have the formula treatment again for one month. Ideally, the formula would be given to you for one month every three to four months.

Enteral nutrition has not been proven to prevent flare-ups in ulcerative colitis patients.