Please note that this is part TWO of my “series” on diet and IBD. Part one (click here) about body image, part two (this) is about food/diet, and part three is a mix up/wrap up of both. I am also working on an entire recipe/food tips section for this blog that will end up containing 5-10 different pages. I am SUPER EXCITED about releasing it, but it won’t be up for a few weeks/months because I want it to be as awesome as possible. For now, I’ve included a little sneak peek at the bottom of this article. Happy reading!
Food is all around us. Whether it’s in our hands, at a snack shop down the street, or on a giant billboard next to a creepy person smiling (I mean, nobody gets that excited about canned freshwater tuna, right?) Food. Is. Everywhere. Now, it’s not just about the food itself. Going out to eat is a great way to see friends. Most holidays have at least some food involved. (And if you’re anything like my family, ALL holidays have TONS of food involved!) Cooking is a hobby many people enjoy (or don’t, if you happen to be cooking for a crazy family who doesn’t agree on anything!…Sorry mom 😆 ). What I’m trying to say is that food is a HUGE part of society. It’s literally everywhere. Yummy, right?
However, when you have Crohn’s disease, sometimes the last thing you want to do is sit down to a nice plate of hot food…(It ends up being not so nice). Now, you’re probably thinking “yeah, yeah, I get it! My/your stomach is screwed up. So what?”
Well, I’m gonna tell you what. It’s a very complicated what. I’m not saying that everyone who has IBD has eating/food concerns, but many of us do. If you don’t have IBD, or your IBD doesn’t affect your dietary habits, you can read this too! (Plus, there are free snack recipes at the bottom, and because our society is obsessed with food, I think you should check them out….just sayin’.)
First of all, Crohn’s is a digestive disease. Digestive as in break down food. As in eating. So, naturally, people with Crohn’s sometimes have a hard time digesting and absorbing their food. Below are the definitions of these terms.
Digesting: When your body breaks down all the food you eat so that it can use it to keep you going.
Absorbing: When your body actually takes the vitamins, protein, fat, and other “good stuff” from all that broken down (or not broken down) food so that it is usable.
With Crohn’s disease, the digestive system doesn’t always work so well, so you either A: don’t digest your food right (it’s not broken down well); B: don’t absorb your food well (the “good stuff” doesn’t get sucked in, so you don’t get the nutrients you need; or C: both; you don’t break down your food well OR suck in the “good stuff”. (Please keep in mind that when I say “you” I mean your body, not you. If you have Crohn’s or a digestive disorder, it’s not your fault; I’m just saying you because typing “your body” every five seconds is annoying 😆 )
Okayyyyy, so enough science talk. Now let’s put this into real life. When you have IBD, eating can cause a lot of physical and emotional discomfort for a variety of reasons. Throughout the rest of this post, I’m going to talk about the top 2 “Crohn’s food problems” I often encounter, and the best way I deal with them. Hopefully they can help you with whatever struggles you have. At the very bottom, I will include some IBD-friendly snack recipes.
1: What should you do when people constantly ask you if you can eat something, and/or don’t believe you when you say “yes.”
This is probably the MOST ANNOYING thing I deal with IBD related. I mean, hello! If I shouldn’t be eating something, don’t you think I wouldn’t? In reality, as annoying as it is to have people constantly asking/doubting if you can eat something, it is just showing that they are concerned for you. Obviously, everyone wants to eat popcorn sometimes even if they know it’s very bad for them. (Say no to corn, Crohn’s kids…and adults), so friends/family want to make sure that you won’t “snap” and eat something you shouldn’t. Crohn’s disease diets can also be confusing.
While you may understand all of your eating needs, most other people won’t, and that’s okay. With IBD, our diets are constantly changing; you might be on a liquid diet, or you may be able to eat only cooked food, or you may be on a low fiber diet, or a high protein diet, or a no dairy diet, or a gluten free diet, or a sugar only diet, or maybe you can eat everything, or maybe you can eat nothing! However, it’s hard to explain to people that just because you “can’t eat” something doesn’t mean you are going to turn purple and and grow seven horns if you do. I mean, I’m not supposed to eat popcorn (or any corn…) but that with Crohn’s, that doesn’t mean being near it will kill me. Personally, I also don’t care if all my friends eat popcorn and I don’t. (This bothers some people, so talk to your friends about what you feel okay with).
The best way to deal with people who are constantly asking if you can eat something or trying to tell you what to eat/not eat is let them know that YOU are in control. You don’t have to be rude or anything. Just say “Hey, I know you’re just looking out for me, but I know that ____ is safe for me to eat.” If you aren’t in control, work on it! Talk to your parents and doctor(s) about what foods you can/can’t have and how to identify these foods. Showing others that you know your “stuff” helps them become less worried about you.
2: What should you do when you can’t stop thinking about all the food you can’t eat because of IBD?
This is also a common issue many people with IBD or other stomach issues face. Even when you know you shouldn’t be eating certain foods, sometimes we feel like we need to eat it, especially if others around us are. There are a few ways to deal with this. First of all, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor/nutritionist what foods you can eat. There may be things you think you can’t have, but in reality, you can. After you know what foods are “safe” and
“unsafe”, make sure you keep snacks with you, especially if your diet is very specific. This way, if you are ever somewhere where everyone is eating something like popcorn, you will still be able to have a snack. Lastly is don’t dwell on it. While this is much easier said then done, (trust me, I know), if you get so caught up in everything you can’t eat you are missing out on all of the things you can. Most foods have “replacements” that are easier for people with IBD to digest. For example, if you really like peanuts but can’t eat them, try peanut butter. While it isn’t the same, it’s much better than staring at a bowl of peanuts and being angry you can’t have them.
Feeling upset or made about IBD and the struggles that come with it is completely normal. You’re allowed to have these feelings. However, thinking about everything you’re missing out all the time is not going to help you accept your condition and yourself. Instead, think about how you can solve these problems. Get creative, and come up with foods to “replace” those you can’t have. Try to find recipes that you can make that you actually enjoy. Make sure you know what you can eat, and what you can’t, and show others that you are in control.
Below are some examples of “replacement” foods to substitute for foods that aren’t IBD-friendly. Most, if not all of them, are found in regular grocery stores.
- Popcorn – Try popcorn flavored rice cakes, chips, or other snacks. Although it’s not the same, you still get the buttery popcorn flavor.
- Nuts – Try creamy nut butters! While they don’t have the same crunch, you can put them on crackers or pretzels instead.
- Fruits/veggies – Try making smoothies with the flavors you like!
- Dairy foods – There are a ton of dairy free products in grocery stores today, or try things like sorbet or dairy free smoothies. All you need is fruit, juice, and ice!
- Other foods you “miss” – Play around with recipes! Try to create your own version of a food you can’t have using ingredients that you can. See what you can come up with!