Inflammation of the colon and intestine can cause pain and discomfort. In some cases, one may be able to manage their symptoms and reduce inflammation by adding specific foods to their diet. The main cause of bowel and colon inflammation is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is an umbrella term that covers Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both diseases cause inflammation of the intestine. The same diet is not suitable for everyone with IBD. However, some foods may help reduce inflammation more than others. Here are some suggestions for foods that can help reduce inflammation in his gut or colon.
During an inflammatory flare-up
People with IBD are advised to take the following steps regarding their diet during an outbreak:
Eat less fiber
We must favor white breads and rice with whole grains. Foods with less than 2 grams of fiber per serving are best.
You have to cook your vegetables well. They can use fresh or frozen vegetables, including:
– green beans
– mashed potatoes without skin
– asparagus tips
– pumpkin puree
You can eat canned fruit or soft fruit, such as:
– peeled apples
– ripe bananas
Peeling fruits and vegetables when possible lowers their fiber content.
In a 2018 review of studies, researchers found that following diets high in fruits and vegetables helps reduce inflammatory biomarkers.
One should make sure to eat enough protein during a flare-up.
Sources of protein include:
soft and well-cooked meats, such as:
– salmon or other fish
– lean beef and pork, without added fat
– deli meats low in sodium and fat
– well-cooked eggs
Smooth nut and seed butters including:
– Sun-flower seeds
When symptoms worsen, a person with IBD should aim to drink 8 cups of fluid per day. However, she must avoid:
– caffeinated drinks
– sugary drinks
– drinks made with sugar substitutes
Eat less added fat
For cooking, oils should be preferred to solid fats. Their consumption should be less than 8 tablespoons per day. Using olive oil instead of other oils or fats can help fight inflammation. A 2019 study reports that extra virgin olive oil may help reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and immune response in people living with IBD.
It is better to slowly reintroduce food after an inflammatory flare-up. This can be done by adding one or two new foods every few days. If a food starts to cause symptoms, it should be avoided.
The following foods may be appropriate for someone who has just had a flare-up of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis:
– diluted juices
– canned fruit
– chicken, turkey or natural fish
– cooked eggs
– mashed potatoes, white rice or noodles
– white or sourdough bread
If a person has recovered from a flare-up of bowel or colonic inflammation, they can eat the following foods to help keep inflammation down:
One can start eating higher fiber foods when gastrointestinal symptoms have improved and it is less likely to make symptoms worse.
According to a 2017 study, long-term fiber avoidance may lead to an increased risk of flare-ups in people with Crohn’s disease. Therefore, one should make sure to consume fiber between flare-ups. Dietary fiber can be in the form of whole grains, such as brown bread or brown rice.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods such as salmon, can help reduce inflammation. A 2016 review of studies indicates that although the use of omega-3 fatty acids is not a treatment for IBD, they definitely help reduce inflammation. However, the researchers note that more research is needed to determine how much of this nutrient constitutes an effective dose.
Common sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
– certain vegetables (e.g. flax seeds)
– salmon, herring, mackerel and other oily fish
It is advisable to opt for foods that have undergone a minimum of transformations. The fewer ingredients a product has, the better.
One should continue to favor oils such as olive oil over solid fats, such as butter. However, at this stage, one will probably tolerate the added fats better.
Among other sources, protein can be consumed in the form of:
– vegetable proteins, such as soy products
Drink enough fluids
One should always make sure to drink enough fluids throughout the day. It is advisable to drink water rather than fruit juices, soft drinks, alcohol and drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee or tea.
The exact cause of the inflammation will help the doctor determine the best treatments and lifestyle changes a person can make to reduce inflammation in the gut.
Other changes may be made, including the following:
– drink slowly and avoid using straws
– eat 4 to 6 small meals a day
– stay hydrated
– keep a food diary to identify foods that may cause symptoms to worsen
– cook food using simple methods, such as grilling, steaming, boiling or poaching.
What you must remember
Inflammation of the colon and intestine is often the result of IBD. Several foods can help reduce bowel inflammation during, after, and between flare-ups. One should work with a doctor to determine the underlying cause of the inflammation and seek treatment to help prevent potential complications.
Barbalho, SM, et al. (2016). Inflammatory bowel disease: Can omega-3 fatty acids really help?
Brotherton, CS, et al. (2016). Avoidance of fiber is associated with a greater risk of Crohn’s disease flare in a 6 month period.
Holt, EM, et al. (2009). Fruit and vegetable consumption and its relation to markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in adolescents.
Hosseini, B., et al. (2018). Effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on inflammatory biomarkers and immune cell populations: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis.
Larussa, T., et al. (2019). Olive tree biophenols in inflammatory bowel disease: When bitter is better.
Levine, A., et al. (2020). Dietary guidance from the International Organization for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (Abstract).
Limdi, JK (2018). Dietary practices and inflammatory bowel disease.
Liu, JF., et al. (2013). The effect of almonds on inflammation and oxidative stress in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized crossover controlled feeding trial (Abstract).