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Diet and Lifestyle

8 Superfoods for Crohn’s Disease

Look for “superfoods” in any online search engine and you’ll generate a long list of possible choices chock-full of vitamins and nutrients. While superfoods are beneficial for good health, they might not be the best option if you have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Plus, superfood options for Crohn’s are more limited than for someone without any digestive issues. For instance, superfoods that are high in fiber may simply be too difficult for you to digest, as fiber and Crohn’s are often a bad combination.

But don’t throw in the towel on a healthy diet with Crohn’s just yet: Some nutrient-dense superfoods are easier on your digestive tract than others. You just have to know which ones to try, and have patience to sample one at a time.

Because Crohn’s disease can interfere with the way your body digests foods and absorbs nutrients, it’s important to make the food you eat count. Talk with your doctor or dietitian to see if the following nutrient-rich superfoods will be a good fit for you and what else you might need to supply the minerals and vitamins that Crohn’s makes it hard for you to get

Salmon Seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to have an anti-inflammatory effect, says O’Connor. Try simple cooking preparations without excess added fats or spices, which could trigger a flare. Salmon is also a good source of protein and is gentle on the stomach.

Eggs An excellent source of protein, eggs are generally very well tolerated and easy to digest, notes O’Connor. They can be prepared in a variety of ways to keep things interesting.

Almond milk O’Connor likes this alternative to regular cow’s milk as it’s a good option for people who don’t tolerate lactose. Although almond milk is not a good source of protein, it contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Just be careful of flavored almond milk, which contains added sugar.

Vegetable soups Eating veggies in their raw forms can aggravate Crohn’s symptoms. O’Connor suggested making soups with low-fat broth or stock (instead of a creamy dairy-based broth that may not be well tolerated), and pureeing veggies to create a highly nutritious meal that’s easy on the digestive tract.

Avocados “Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat and a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folic acid,” says Karen Langston, a certified holistic nutritionist specializing in Crohn’s disease and author of the e-book Healthified Pantry. “This is good news for someone with Crohn’s, as it’s an easily digestible, good-for-you fruit loaded with vitamins.” Avocados don’t have to be reserved for guacamole and salads. She recommends adding them to smoothies or using them as a substitute for oil in muffin and cake recipes.

Orange sweet potatoes Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, B vitamins, manganese, potassium, and the amino acid tryptophan, says Langston. Valued for their anti-inflammatory health benefits, sweet potatoes are delicious roasted, boiled and mashed, or even cooked on the grill. Just avoid eating the skins, because they’re fibrous and may trigger a flare.

Purple sweet potatoes Purple sweet potatoes are as nutrient dense as their orange counterparts, but they also have an abundance of antioxidants such as anthocyanins, cyanidins, and peonidins that help protect your body from free radical damage, which leads to inflammation, says Langston. When cooking with purple sweet potatoes, you might have to add an additional tablespoon or two of liquid to achieve the consistency you are used to when using orange sweet potatoes.

Yogurt Yogurt is a rich source of probiotics — “good bacteria” — and is known to help promote gut health. Research also shows that eating yogurt can help people to better manage Crohn’s.A study published in January 2014 in Nutrition Journalexamined 40 patients with IBD who were placed on a low-carb and high-probiotic diet. Of those people, 60 percent reported good results, while all of the participants dropped at least one of their IBD medications and had reduced symptoms, including bowel frequency.  

When choosing yogurt, opt for the plain variety with no added sugar. And make sure the label states that it contains “live and active cultures.”

Your Crohn’s superfoods list is by no means limited to these foods, but they’re a tasty and nutritious start. Happy eating!

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Diet and Lifestyle

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Diet and Lifestyle

Get Your Gut Back On Track!

An estimated 110,000 people consume antibiotics daily in Ireland, between December/March. (Source: Health Protection Surveillance Centre).

We asked Nutritional Therapist Rosanna Davison for her Top Tips to get your gut back on track after an illness.

1. Take time out

Don’t push yourself too quickly.  Remember your body needs time to rebuild its reserves and regain strength.

Take more rest than usual.  If you need to sleep longer, go to bed earlier.

Cut back on non-essential activities; they can wait until you are feeling 100%.

  1. Embrace fibre-rich foods full of protective nutrients

Fresh vegetables and fruits are rich in dietary fibre, vitamins and antioxidants.  Try eating seven to nine portions over the course of each day. Choose different colours so that you nourish your body with a variety of phytonutrients.

Eat a portion of complete protein at each meal, such as poultry, fish, eggs, beans, pulses or tofu.

Consume essential omega-3 fatty acids daily.  Avocados, seeds (flax, chia) and oily fish (mackerel, wild and organic salmon), are naturally rich in anti-inflammatory fats.

  1. Go ‘fermented’

Fermented foods are rich in ‘friendly’ bacteria.  Sauerkraut is simple to make at home or buy kefir or kimchi in your local health store.

  1. Reduce or eliminate sugary foods

Processed foods often contain refined sugars to enhance taste. Excess refined sugar and processed foods may encourage the growth of ‘unfriendly’ bacteria, so aim to buy and eat fresh food.

If you have a sweet tooth, try eating berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries).  They are rich in antioxidants and naturally low in sugar.

If you need a sweetener, try Stevia which is extracted from plant leaves and doesn’t impact blood sugar levels.

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Diet and Lifestyle

Do vegans need to take supplements?

Do vegans need to take supplements

A varied, wholesome vegan diet provides almost all essential nutrients in sufficient quantities. I hear you shouting ‘Noooo! It provides absolutely everything we need!’ and you may be right, but only if you regularly eat certain fortified foods. The sad truth is that modern food production systems and lifestyles make it more difficult for everyone – vegans or not – to get all they need from diet alone. It doesn’t mean a vegan diet is unnatural or unhealthy, in fact the opposite is true. It means that how we grow, produce and consume food has changed and, with an ever-growing population, the demands on the systems that produce our food are so high that certain nutrients become harder to obtain.

Confusion, confusion

I get a lot of questions about supplements and understand why people are confused. Over the years, I’ve worked on many vegan research projects and as science and population studies reveal ever more data, the guidelines and recommendations change and evolve. Hence, what we were told 10 years ago may no longer be up-to-date and that’s why different opinions arise, depending on where and when we got our information. It’s my job to keep up-to-date, so hopefully I can bring some clarity to the supplement discussion!

So what’s needed? The trio of nutrients to keep a close eye on are vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine. You may not need to supplement with all these, all year long, but it depends on several factors. Read on…

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 naturally comes from bacteria in the soil and both people and animals would traditionally have got it from eating unwashed plants. However, we not only wash vegetables before we eat them (and for good reasons), but food production is now so sanitised that most vegetables are washed in chlorine, or other sterilising solutions, so there’s not a trace of B12 left.

People are not generally aware that most farmed animals are given B12 supplements and this is how the vitamin eventually ends up in their flesh. So, the argument that meat is a natural source of B12 doesn’t really stack up as meat-eaters essentially consume B12 supplements recycled by the animals that were given them!

It is absolutely necessary that we have a reliable source of vitamin B12 for our bodies. We need it to make red blood cells, for a healthy heart and circulation, and it’s essential for the nervous system. It takes years to develop a B12 deficiency, so on one hand, you don’t need to worry about not having taken B12 for a while. On the other hand, you do need to pay attention, as when symptoms develop, it’s usually serious.

Do vegans need to take supplements

To ensure adequate intake, you should have at least 5µg (micrograms) daily from supplements or fortified foods. The B12 used in both foods and supplements is produced commercially by growing bacterial cultures in large vats – and it’s always suitable for vegans.

There are two forms of B12 in supplements – cyanocobalamin (cheap) and methylcobalamin (expensive). Cyanocobalamin is the stable ‘inactive,’ form of B12 and is used in supplements and to fortify foods and drinks. Once ingested, it’s activated by your body so it can be used. Methylcobalamin is the ‘active’ form of vitamin B12 as it does not require any metabolic reactions to be activated. It costs more and is not so stable.

So which one to choose? Unless you’re a heavy smoker, have kidney failure or any other serious condition affecting your metabolism, cyanocobalamin – the cheap form of B12 – is perfectly fine. Intakes up to 2,000µg a day are safe and you can take either a lower dose daily or a higher dose a couple of times a week.

Vitamin D

We need vitamin D for healthy bones, teeth and muscles and it also performs other essential functions in our metabolism. It is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight and this is the main source of vitamin D for most people. However, if you always use sun-block, cover most of your skin or live in a country, like the UK, where we don’t get enough sunlight over the winter, you need a supplement, whether you’re vegan or not.

The UK Government now recommends that we all take a supplement from October to April and, if you protect your skin ferociously over the sunnier spring and summer months, you should take a supplement all year long. Otherwise, just 20 minutes of sunlight on the face and arms is all that is required by the body to manufacture sufficient vitamin D.

Do vegans need to take supplements

Fortified breakfast cereals, bread, plant milks and vegan margarines can be useful sources if exposure to sunlight is not practicable, but may not be enough. When it comes to supplements, there are two types and your body can use both, but it’s advisable to check the source – vitamin D2 is always vegan, but vitamin D3 can be of animal origin. Many vegan foods are fortified with vitamin D2 and labelled so, but if not specified, especially on cereal products, vitamin D tends to be of animal origin. If you choose to supplement your diet, there’s a range of quality and affordable vegan supplements with vitamin D2. There are also those made from algae or mushrooms that contain D3 and these are recommended if you need a higher dose. When deciding on your dosage, 10µg per day is enough and you shouldn’t go above 25µg.

Iodine

Iodine has been a hot topic lately, especially with plenty of tabloid ‘experts’ warning that vegans are missing out. This mineral is necessary for thyroid function and helps to regulate how energy is produced and used in the body.

The amount of iodine in plants depends upon the iodine content of the soil in/on which they are grown. The closer to the sea, the more iodine and therefore vegans can get enough from plant foods, but there’s no guarantee. Seaweed, which of course grows in seawater, is always a good source and includes nori, laver, dulse and the kelp family (kombu, arame, wakame). But be warned – kelp absorbs far more than other seaweeds and you can get too much iodine from it. So, while seaweed consumption is encouraged, kelp should be used only sparingly.

Do vegans need to take supplements

It’s best to use a kelp supplement so you know exactly how much iodine you’re taking – it’s cheap, reliable and you don’t have to worry about taking too much. The recommended daily intake is 140µg and intakes up to 500µg are considered safe. In many countries, iodised salt is commonly used to ensure iodine intake, but it’s not the norm in the UK.

The dairy industry has been boasting about the iodine content of cow’s milk. What they don’t tell you is that it’s not a natural component of milk, but comes from iodinated cattle feed, supplements, iodophor medication, iodine-containing sterilisers of milking equipment, teat dips and udder washes. Cow’s milk is neither a natural nor the best source of iodine, so we can happily leave all that dairy out of our diet.

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