Top 5 Diets for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
There are many diets out there that can help the many symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. These diets are not easy to follow but there are multiple variations of each diet as well. Everyone is different and can benefit from different types of diets and customizing a diet to your specific needs is helpful.
I believe that leaky gut is a huge contributor to inflammatory bowel disease, as well as genetics and a number of other environmental factors. Our bodies are constantly exposed to toxins from our environment and our foods. In someone who is genetically predisposed to inflammatory bowel disease these things all work against us. They cause our bodies to attack self and our digestive tract is the target.
These toxins and foods cause all kinds of inflammation in our digestive tracks. Eventually tipping the scales to full blown autoimmunity. I struggle to think that if I had eaten a cleaner diet or not introduced so many toxins into my body that I may have been able to avoid the tipping point to my autoimmunity diagnosis, Crohn’s disease.
I am now trying to heal my intestines with diet as well as medicines. I am hopeful that this combo will put my in remission. It has taken a long time to tailor a diet to my specific needs. I’d encourage you to work with a functional medicine doctor and do allergy testing and specific stool testing to determine if there are any underlying infections. However, if you don’t have the resources or the time, hopefully this list will help narrow down the diets and which one will work for you best.
Good luck! please feel free to let me know what diet you follow and how you do on it.
Grain Free Diet
This diet is precisely what it says. Grains, ALL grains are cut out of the diet. This diet takes it a lot further than just being gluten free. The theory here is that grains are massively difficult to digest and can be full of toxins and genetic modifications.
Grains include all rice, gluten, oats, corn and barley. Also excluded in this diet is quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. These last three are allowed rarely once the body is healed and symptoms are resolved. Diary, sugar, nuts and eggs are all allowed on this diet.
The benefits of this diet are numerous. It can help with excess weight and help maintain a healthy weight. This diet has also been noted to improve inflammatory markers all over the body, including the heart and the brain. It can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Some of the draw backs of this diet are that is requires mostly home cooking and very thoroughly readying labels and paying extreme attention to what is in the food you are using to cook with and eat.
What can I eat on this diet?
Sugar and sweeteners (in moderation)
A huge advocate of this diet is Danielle Walker. She started ‘www.againstallgrain.com‘ and has really paved the way for this diet. She herself has ulcerative colitis and is remission now with a large part being due to this diet. She has many cookbooks out and several resources on her website.
2. Paleo Diet
Paleo has become huge in the last year or so. People and doctors are starting to recognize this diet as a great way to get healthier and improve quality of life. This diet is more restrictive than the grain free diet. The paleo diet requires more eliminations than grain free. You will still be taking out gluten and grains but also dairy, sugar, legumes and vegetable oils. Potatoes are a gray area, but should be only eaten rarely. This is based on a ‘hunter/gatherer’ way of life back in the Paleolithic era. Basically, if you could hunt it or gather it, you can’t eat it.
It excludes processed foods and can be difficult for some people to follow. It requires a lot of food preparation and time. This diet can have many benefits including proper weight management and maintenance. It can help improve quality of life, reduce inflammation and help autoimmunity.
What can I eat on the paleo diet?
If you take a little time and google this one, you will get a ton of information, recipes and general help with transitioning into the paleo diet.
3. Autoimmune Paleo Diet
This diet is very similar to the paleo diet but it is even more restrictive. Shortened to just ‘AIP’ this diet can be done as an elimination diet. Basically, you can take it a week at a time and take out certain things from your diet each week. The first week eliminates gluten and some grains as well as a few other foods, the second week takes out dairy and cheese as well as a bunch of other foods, the third takes out eggs and other things…and so on. Eventually after 6 weeks of eliminations you can start to add foods back in, one by one. This allows the body to heal and then adding potential harmful foods one at time will allow the person to determine if that food causes a reaction or is safe.
You can do this diet cold turkey and take everything out from the beginning. This allows the body to be without possible triggers for 6 weeks or longer before adding in one food at a time. There are some great resources out there for this diet. I personally have gotten many resources for this diet just from googling about it. Most of it is free and very helpful.
This diet is very beneficial to autoimmune patients. It takes out so much food that most possible triggers are taken out and leaky gut and autoimmunity in the digestive track can start to heal. It can help thyroid diseases and many autoimmune diseases. It can help with excess weight and it allows the body to detox a lot of toxins.
One draw back that I have found, besides the obvious – there is not much to eat and it is hard to stick to, is that if you have an underlying infection or other problem causing some symptoms and those won’t resolve with just diet. So, you could be doing this whole diet and still have to address other underlying problems. Although, eliminating potential allergens or irritants to the gut should help resolve some symptoms so there should be some relief.
What can I eat on the AIP?
4. Anti-inflammatory Diet
This diet aims to take out inflammatory causing foods from the things that we eat. The anti-inflammatory diet is much less restrictive that the 3 diets mentioned previously but still has a lot of guidelines to follow. This diet relieves inflammation from the whole body but the gut is the main target here. The theory being that the foods taken out are all huge inflammatory triggers. Stressing the importance of bringing healthy foods into the body and having variety will allow the body to heal and the inflammation to cease. This diet omits sugar, margarine, oils and foods that are highly processed. It allows cracked grains, wine and some chocolate among other things, see the chart below. This diet is a lot different than the others in that it allows for more options and is focused more on maintaining health than rapid healing. This diet is, in my opinion, more for those of us who have are digestive track healed and would like to stay that way.
Some of the benefits are a decrease in arthritis symptoms, potential decrease the likelyhood of developing alzheimers or parkinsens disease, decreasing the chances of heart disease and possibly putting any autoimmune inflammatory disease into remission.
What can I eat on the anti-inflammatory diet?
5. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
This diet is taken from the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall. This is a fantastic book for anyone who has been diagnosed with any form of inflammatory bowel disease. In it the author discusses how we are basically in a vicious cycle with our icrobiomes inside our guts. We take in foods that we can not digest and cause harm to our digestive tracks. This leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria that in turn will alter the way that we digest foods and cause bowel disease. The SCD will alter the foods that we put in our bodies, therefore altering the micro biome inside of us causing healing. There is a lot more that goes into it but that is it in the most basic terms I can think of.
This diet is based on the fact that there are specific carbohydrates in our foods that are easier for us to digest. If we only eat these foods then we will be able to digest and effectively starve the bad bacterias that are competing for our undigested foods and causing damage to the lining of our guts.
The benefits of this diet are similar to all of the others listed above, however, this diet specifically zeros in on our intestines. Therefore it is tailor made for inflammatory bowel disease sufferers. It can help anyone that deals with inflammation or other autoimmune diseases but it is mainly for IBD sufferers.
There is an intro diet with this one. There are a few days in the beginning where you can only eat certain things, then from there you can add in various other foods. This makes it very difficult in those beginning days, but if you can get through those you can start to add in other foods that may not be allowed on the diets above.
There are millions of people that claim this diet has helped put them in remission from their IBD. I think it is worth a shot!
What can I eat on this diet?
There is a whole huge list of legal vs illegal foods on www.breakingtheviscouscycle.com but some of the legal foods are…
All of these diets are beneficial. They each have their benefits. All of them will require a lot of time and effort with special attention to detail. There is no cheating on these diets. You can’t have a cheat day or decide to have that one piece of cake. They require 100% compliance to be fully effective. They are not easy, but I am convinced they are really worth it!
I am personally starting a journey on the autoimmune paleo because I want to see what/if any foods are triggering inflammation in my digestive track. It will be hard! I will be blogging about it too, so you can follow along in my journey on it.