Throughout my journey with Crohn’s disease, there have been many times when I have had to change from a typical diet, to another type of diet to manage my disease.
A liquid diet is the most restrictive. This is a diet that I have been asked to adhere to after a surgery or procedure. (Not one for a daily basis.)
A full liquid diet is a little less restrictive and would be the next step up after being put on a liquid diet. It is a little more filling because it includes foods like milkshakes, ice cream and yogurt (if you are not lactose intolerant) and fruit juices, Jello-O™ and popsicles.
A low residue diet is still more restrictive than a typical person’s diet, but the least restrictive of the three. It basically means limiting fiber.
I follow a low residue (or, your doctor might call it a low res or low fiber) diet when I am having a flare-up or struggling with my disease. It is a nice way to hit the reset button. Eliminating anything irritating by eating less fiber, then working fiber back in as I can tolerate it.
There are some fibers that I never (or, very rarely) eat, because they are too irritating even when I am well. Things like popcorn, nuts, seeds, beans and celery. Celery is very hard and stringy so it does not digest well for me. Cooked in soups it isn’t as bad. But, raw in tuna I can’t digest it. So, if I am out at a restaurant, I will ask if it is in the tuna salad. Also, I will ask for plain bread (not whole grain or seeded). If you are out ordering a hamburger, I will ask if the bun has sesame seeds. If it does, you can request a non-seeded bun, or two bottom buns. I eat seedless jam. I peel the skins off apples (and actually do even better if they are cooked). Cooking vegetables makes them more digestible. For instance, I have a lot of trouble with raw green beans. And, garden green beans cooked are difficult. But, canned green beans cooked I do fine with. Or, raw spinach is hard, but cooked, I can have a little.
I follow the low residue diet, then add in a few things to see how I do. I have been able to add in nuts on occasion – if I chew them very well, and only a small amount. Like pistachio ice cream. Or, a few cashews chewed very thoroughly. But, I don’t do it frequently. I really like oatmeal, so if I am having a rough time I will make instant oatmeal. But, if I am doing well, I might make steel cut oatmeal (more fiber), but I will have it with cooked fruit (not skins on fruit). So, I dabble with food. I love canned fruit. I do much better with canned pears than I do with fresh ones. Canned mandarin oranges are nice. I make smoothies quite a bit with yogurt, and either fresh or frozen fruit and a small amount of sweetener like sugar or apple juice, or a banana. Or, you can buy large bottle so pre-made smoothie in the produce section of most stores. Naked™ and Bolthouse Farms™ are great brands. Their smoothies have zero seeds or residue.
Another good “meal to drink” is Ensure™. It comes in many flavors. Vanilla is my favorite. But, in addition to the vanilla, they have milk chocolate, dark chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan and banana nut. It is cheaper to buy by the case, than the six pack. And, it tastes better cold. Sometimes I will replace a meal with one if I am struggling with food. Boost also has a line of shakes. And, when I have been in the hospital, they also have Boost Juice. I have never seen it in a store. But, maybe online?
Another great low residue food is pureed soup. I really like the Imagine™ brand. It can be found in the organic section at at your local market. My favorite is potato leek. But, they also make butternut squash, portobello mushroom, pumpkin, tomato, broccoli, super reds (red veggies) and super greens (you probably guessed – lol – green veggies). They are very flavorful and no residue. Sometimes I digest tomato soup and tomato sauce fine, and sometimes it is too acidic. But, potato (mashed, baked, in soups) seems to digest well.
Also – I start with white rice on the low res diet. And, advance to brown rice if I can tolerate it. White rice and chicken broth is a great way to hit the reset button. Easy to digest and easy on the bowel.
One thing that I miss tremendously is popcorn. The hulls are hard to digest. So, I have found a substitute with a brand of snack chips called Popcorners™. I have even brought them to the movie theatre and never been asked to throw them out. If you like them, they also come in snack sized bags (18 bags – 6 sea salt, 6 white cheddar and 6 kettle corn flavored. They are nice for lunch packing).
Even while following a Crohn’s friendly (low fiber) diet, I have still had flares. I have learned not to take this as a personal failure. But, for me, following a low res diet has helped me live with less pain on a daily basis.
I am not a medical professional – so please contact your primary care doctor, gastroenterologist or a nutritionist to help develop a personal plan for you. I hope you find foods that you enjoy, that provide great nutrition and less pain.