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Do you find yourself skipping meals or avoiding certain foods due to fear of triggering symptoms? Are you avoiding eating at work or when you’re traveling with others to prevent an urgent trip to the bathroom? If so, you’re not alone.
One study of 57 patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis found that 41% restricted their diet to avoid an embarrassing incident away from home. Another study that summarized the findings of 27 other studies found that up to 89% of IBD patients avoided certain foods and up to 93% may have some sort of disordered eating behavior.
If you’re avoiding or skipping meals for fear of triggering symptoms, here are 5 tips that may help.
1. Create a list of safe meal and snack ideas
Not sure what foods are safe and what foods are triggers? Start by learning about the most common trigger foods for Crohn’s and colitis. Here are some meal and snack ideas that may be a helpful place to start. You should also check out the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s recipe finder for more inspiration and variety.
2. Test out meals on your days off
It can be stressful to try new foods when you’re outside the house. Instead, test out new meal ideas on the weekends. If the meal doesn’t cause an increase in symptoms, try it out during the week.
3. Talk to your gastroenterologist about your symptoms
If you’re skipping meals because you’re worried about triggering symptoms, your doctor needs to know. Ask to get your inflammatory markers checked to assess for inflammation. If you have active disease, you may require a medication change.
4. Talk to your IBD dietitian about your symptoms
An IBD dietitian can help you adjust your diet so that you can reduce your symptoms. They’ll also be able to help you come up with customized meal ideas and recipes that work for you and your lifestyle.
5. Ask to work or learn from home
You may be able to ask for certain accommodations from your work or school so that you have access to a bathroom when you need it. It may also be helpful to ask to work from home when you’re experiencing symptoms.
- Prince A, Whelan K, Moosa A, Lomer MC, Reidlinger DP. Nutritional problems in inflammatory bowel disease: the patient perspective. J Crohns Colitis. 2011 Oct;5(5):443-50. doi: 10.1016/j.crohns.2011.04.016. Epub 2011 May 25. Erratum in: J Crohns Colitis. 2022 Aug 16;: PMID: 21939918.
- Day AS, Yao CK, Costello SP, Andrews JM, Bryant RV. Food avoidance, restrictive eating behaviour and association with quality of life in adults with inflammatory bowel disease: A systematic scoping review. Appetite. 2021 Dec 1;167:105650. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105650. Epub 2021 Aug 12. PMID: 34391842.