Living with an illness that limits the foods she can eat renders journalist Debbie Galant an expert on Crohn’s, the chronic inflammatory bowel disease that sends her to the hospital periodically to clear out an obstruction.
She’s like any of your customers seeking to spread these emergency visits as far apart as possible while enjoying a high quality of life.“The main thing is I can’t eat anything hard,” Galant says. “So, no popcorn, raw carrots, raw celery or nuts. I’m really not supposed to eat cooked corn either — but sometimes I do.
I find if I eat too much, I can get a bowel obstruction. My bowel resection surgery was a little more than 30 years ago, and the scar tissue from that is like a pipe that’s corroded. It’s basic plumbing.“I wish I could eat nuts,” she adds. “Instead, I scoop a spoon of various nut butters: peanut, cashew, almond or sunbutter.
”Each Person Is DifferentCrohn’s is considered an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and what triggers a flare up varies from person to person. With Crohn’s, inflammation can develop anywhere in the GI tract — from the mouth to the anus — although it most commonly occurs at the end of the small intestine.According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), about 67% of people with Crohn’s in remission will suffer at least one recurrence within five years (1).Another IBD is ulcerative colitis (UC), which is limited to the large intestine — the rectum and colon. Some of the main foods doctors advise people with UC to stay away from are caffeine, alcohol, dairy, carbonated beverages, and foods high in fiber. Some people with IBD can eat onions, while others cannot.
About 30% of people in remission will experience a relapse in the next year, CCFA estimates (1).Neither Crohn’s nor UC is curable, but eating the right foods and avoiding others can help stem repeat hospital visits.Meanwhile, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which goes by the name IBS, is something that can be managed with diet. Having IBS symptoms once doesn’t mean they will happen again. IBS can be caused by stress, foods or hormones. The role of food in certain allergies or intolerances is not yet fully understood, but among the foods implicated for IBS are chocolate, spices, fats, fruits, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, milk, carbonated beverages and alcohol (2).
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where ingestion of gluten damages the small intestine. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body” (3).Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease (3). People living gluten-free must avoid foods with wheat, rye and barley, such as bread and beer. Ingesting the tiniest amounts of gluten, like crumbs from a cutting board or toaster, can trigger the immune response.
People affected with an IBD will typically sort out what bothers them by using a food and symptom journal when first diagnosed. A food that didn’t affect them before may start to bother them down the road.Food sensitivities can develop at any age, and some can be reversed if the right steps are taken, says WholeFoods columnist and nutrition expert Jaqui Karr, CGP, CSN, CVD. While the words “sensitivity” and “allergy” are often used interchangeably, that’s a mistake. Sensitivity usually relates to the digestive system while allergy relates to the immune system.“The body is designed for variety,” Karr says. “Don’t eat the same food every day. That’s one way allergies develop.”“People with food sensitivities usually try to avoid foods that cause discomfort but may ‘cheat’ once in a while knowing they may experience some issues,” says Dave Rosenberg, food category manager, NOW Foods, Bloomingdale, IL. “On the other hand, people with a food disease or food intolerance such as a celiac, who have an autoimmune reaction when gluten is consumed, need to avoid specific foods or the repercussions can be more serious. Depending on the severity of their intolerance, they may experience dramatic allergic reactions, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation or even life-threatening reactions.”“A food allergy triggers an immune response, meaning your immune system mistakes the food for something harmful and attacks it,” says Anne Laraway, senior VP of business development and innovation at Happy Family, New York. “It usually happens every time you eat the food, comes on suddenly and can be life threatening.”“There are no absolutes for universally safe foods for sensitive digestive systems because once the system