Crohn’s disease affects the intestines, which absorb food that produces energy for your body. When inflamed, it cannot adequately perform this essential function. Furthermore, when patients aren’t feeling well, they may not eat enough to support their body’s increased nutritional needs.

Malnutrition and dehydration are a significant concern with Crohn’s. In fact, one study reported that the overall prevalence of malnutrition was 53 percent of Crohn’s patients. In those experiencing a flare-up of symptoms, the incidence was as high as 83 percent. Approximately 40 percent do not properly absorb carbohydrates, and one-third have trouble absorbing fat.

Unfortunately, there is no one appropriate diet for Crohn’s sufferers. It’s easy to become deficient in key nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. And this can be associated with a lower quality of life. Food diaries identify and track trigger foods while providing a way to monitor your intake of calories, proteins and other nutrients.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K all support critical body functions. They are fat soluble and therefore less easily absorbed from the intestines.

Unfortunately, vitamin deficiencies are common. Vitamin A is the third most common nutritional deficiency in the world, and vitamin D deficiency is common in people with Crohn’s, affecting as many as 68 percent of patients. Vitamin D helps the body metabolize calcium, and both are needed for healthy bone formation.

With the exception of vitamin D, which is also produced in our body from exposure to sunlight, most vitamins are found in animal foods, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables—all important components of a balanced diet.

Vitamins C—an important antioxidant—and the B vitamins, particularly B-12, are water soluble. Since our bodies don’t store these vitamins, we must regularly consume them. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause anemia, neurological disorders and other health problems. Patients who’ve had terminal ileal resection are particularly at risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Minerals and other nutrients
Crohn’s patients may also be deficient in important minerals, such as calcium, iron (blood loss from inflammation may cause anemia), folic acid, potassium, and magnesium. Like vitamins, minerals support many vital body functions. Calcium, for example, is the most common mineral in the body and is found almost exclusively in our bones and teeth. Fish oil and flaxseed oil, both high in omega-3 fatty acids, are important nutrients and may help fight inflammation. Probiotics restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in your intestines.

Work closely with your physician and a nutrition expert to develop a diet that’s balanced and includes adequate calories and important nutrients. They may recommend supplements to compensate for shortfalls in key vitamins and minerals.