Challenges of a Healthy Diet with IBD

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

When we begin a new year, many of us choose a New Year’s resolution. The most common resolutions have to do with health: specifically, improving your diet. But if you are one of the 700,000 Americans who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it may not be as simple as choosing a popular eating plan and sticking to it. That’s because gastrointestinal upset and inflammation will most likely affect your food choices or limit them all together when you have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Check out these tips for adding healthy foods back into your diet — even when your gut is irritated. (Note: Everyone is different, so if you know a food is not gut-friendly for you, you should continue to avoid it).


Protein helps the body repair and build tissues as well as aiding in the creation of hormones, enzymes, and more. That makes it an essential addition to an IBDer’s diet to efficiently help repair gut damage. It can be hard to eat something like a steak when your gut is irritated, but there are other good sources of protein that you may want to try instead. For example, Greek yogurt, eggs or egg whites, nut butters, and steamed fish are generally easier on the gut.

Fruits and veggies

There are many different vitamins and minerals in produce that work to help your body function at its best. That said, it can be challenging to digest raw fruits or vegetables when your gut is in an uproar. Instead, you should try to incorporate canned or cooked fruits like canned pears, baked apples, applesauce, or canned peaches. Cooked vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and peas can all be more easily digested than raw vegetables and provide the nutrients your body craves. Be sure to avoid gas-causing cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts if they bother you during a flare.

Whole grains

This is the one time you are going to hear me say: limit fiber. The high fiber content of whole-grain foods tends to aggravate an already upset stomach. Read labels and stick to foods like oatmeal, cream of wheat, and low-fiber cereals or breads to get your carbohydrates without stomach aches.


Fat can be one of the harder nutrients for your body to digest, which is why it can make an already painful day even worse. The key here is the kind of fat that you are choosing. Avoiding greasy fast foods or fried foods is always better for your body. Instead, look for healthy fats like those from salmon, nut butters, avocado, or olive oil. These fats can actually work to reduce inflammation and are easier to digest than their animal fat counterparts.

While this list is not exhaustive, it does give you some places to start to keep a balanced diet while dealing with the pain of IBD.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.