Find a Doctor Find a Doctor
Time to see a specialist? There are [COUNT] Specialists near [LOCATION]
We found [COUNT] Specialists
who treat [INTEREST]
near [LOCATION]
We found [COUNT] Specialists
who treat [INTEREST]
near [LOCATION]
[TELEHEALTH] offer Telehealth options.
More
Finding the Right Crohn's Disease Treatment

This content is created by Healthgrades and brought to you by an advertising sponsor. More

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the Healthgrades advertising policy.

Foods to Avoid with Crohn's Disease: A Guide

Medically Reviewed By Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN

Food can play a significant role in managing Crohn’s disease. Some foods possibly contribute to Crohn’s disease, while others may alleviate inflammation. Foods to avoid with Crohn’s disease may include those high in saturated fats, salt, and added sugars. Research into whether food can trigger Crohn’s disease flare-ups is ongoing. So far, experts suggest that certain foods may either alleviate or worsen symptoms.

Read on to learn more about foods to avoid with Crohn’s disease.

Spicy foods

Someone cuts up cucumbers and bell peppers on a kitchen counter.
Ana Luz Crespi/Stocksy United

Researchers suggest Trusted Source American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Peer reviewed journal Go to source that hot and spicy foods are a key trigger of Crohn’s disease symptoms. These foods may worsen some people’s symptoms and overall condition.

Foods and ingredients that can be hot or spicy include:

  • hot sauces and other condiments
  • chili powders or dried peppers, such as cayenne pepper and paprika
  • fresh chilies

If you need to avoid hot or spicy foods, try adding flavor to your food with ingredients such as:

  • fresh herbs
  • turmeric or curcumin
  • cumin
  • ginger
  • lemon peel

The best diet for Crohn’s disease can vary

The best diet can vary per person and depending on whether you are experiencing a flare-up.

Some people with Crohn’s disease limit fiber in their diets because fiber makes symptoms such as bloating or diarrhea worse during flare-ups. However, a 2015 paper Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggests that fiber can benefit IBD by helping maintain remission and reduce intestinal lesions.

Also, avoiding a particular food entirely is not necessary for many people. Instead, try limiting intake and talk with a doctor or registered dietitian for advice.

Sugary drinks and desserts

High levels of sugar may increase inflammation, worsening Crohn’s disease symptoms.

Consider limiting intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars, such as:

  • candy and chocolate
  • ice cream and other desserts
  • baked goods
  • sugary drinks, such as sodas and fruit punches
  • premade coffees

Certain sweeteners

Some people may find that certain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, trigger symptoms.

Polyols are other sweeteners that may cause diarrhea when consumed in high amounts. On product labels, polyols often end in “-ol,” such as:

  • erythritol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol

A 2018 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggests that Splenda, which contains the sweetener sucralose, contributed to bacterial imbalances and inflammation in the guts of mice with Crohn’s disease.

However, further research in humans is needed. Also, not everyone may need to avoid sweeteners altogether.

High fat foods

Some people may find foods high in fat to be irritating.

However, some fats are important to nutrition. If you find that fats trigger symptoms, consider limiting sources of saturated and trans fats, such as:

  • dairy
  • baked goods
  • palm oil, coconut oil, and oils labeled on food products as “hydrogenated”
  • red meat and fatty cuts of meat
  • highly processed foods, such as fast food, fried food, and processed meat such as sausages

Learn more about the types of fats.

Lactose

Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products.

People with Crohn’s disease may have a slightly higher chance of lactose intolerance. Lactose may also trigger symptoms in people without lactose intolerance.

Whether or not you have lactose intolerance, you may not need to cut out lactose completely. Limiting intake may help alleviate symptoms. Contact your doctor for advice on lactose levels that may be safe for you.

Some dairy products are higher in lactose than others, including:

  • milk
  • cream
  • ice cream
  • custard

Because Crohn’s disease and lactose intolerance symptoms can be similar, talk with your doctor about testing.

Salty foods

A 2023 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of previous studies suggests that salt may worsen inflammation and Crohn’s disease severity. By contrast, reviewers suggest that a low salt diet may contribute to experiencing remission from Crohn’s disease.

To reduce Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source salt intake:

  • limit preprepared or highly processed foods, which can be very high in salt
  • do not add salt to your meal or during cooking
  • use herbs to flavor food
  • rinse canned foods before eating
  • look for foods and menu items in restaurants labeled “low sodium” or “reduced sodium”

See more advice for limiting salt intake.

High fiber foods

Fiber is in foods such as:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • pulses and legumes, such as beans and peas
  • whole grains and cereals, such as oats, flaxseed, and bran
  • nuts and seeds

Research suggests that avoiding fiber may not benefit Crohn’s disease. For example, a 2015 study indicates that people with Crohn’s disease who did not avoid high fiber foods were about 40% less likely to have a flare-up than people who did.

As the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK suggests, you may only need to limit fiber intake if:

  • you have a stricture, narrowing, in your gut
  • you are having a flare-up
  • treatment is not managing your condition or symptoms

Soluble vs. insoluble fiber

Different types of fiber can have different effects on IBD. Soluble fiber regulates digestion and absorbs water while in the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber helps food pass quickly through the digestive tract.

As a result, insoluble fiber can be irritating for people with Crohn’s disease, especially with diarrhea or during a flare-up.

Foods high in insoluble fiber include:

  • some seeds
  • corn
  • wheat
  • other whole grains, cereals, and their bran, such as oat bran
  • legumes
  • fruit and vegetable stems, peel, and seeds
  • vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts

Popcorn

Popcorn is high Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source in fiber, sometimes worsening Crohn’s disease symptoms during a flare-up.

Added ingredients or toppings, such as butter or sugar, also may be irritating.

If you do not need to limit fiber, try eating plain popcorn or making popcorn at home. Use alternative toppings, such as turmeric and black pepper or a small amount of salt.

Certain drinks

Some beverages may contain irritating or inflammatory ingredients. These beverages include:

  • alcoholic beverages
  • caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, some teas, and energy drinks
  • drinks containing added sugars or sweeteners
  • carbonated drinks

Instead, try staying hydrated with water, broths, or non-caffeinated teas or infusions.

Summary

Researchers are still investigating how food may affect Crohn’s disease.

However, research suggests limiting foods high in:

  • saturated or trans fats
  • spices
  • salt
  • added sugar
  • artificial sweeteners
  • caffeine
  • alcohol

This can include highly processed or preprepared foods, fatty cuts of meat, and desserts.

Other people may also find that lactose and fiber worsen symptoms, especially during flare-ups. However, it may not be necessary for everyone to cut out all possible trigger foods completely.

Talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian for nutritional advice.

Was this helpful?
278

Medical Reviewer: Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN
Last Review Date: 2023 Oct 31
View All Finding the Right Crohn's Disease Treatment Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.