According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated three million Americans have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
IBD is a medical term used to describe two conditions—Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis—that result in chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Common IBD symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding and weight loss.
Proper nutrition is a critical part of managing inflammatory bowel disease, as these conditions can result in serious vitamin deficiencies if your body is not able to digest food properly.
Experts advise staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and eating 4–6 small meals a day. Avoiding foods that may trigger symptoms, such as high-fat, high-sugar foods, is also advised.
Certain supplements can help with any nutritional deficiencies you may be experiencing as a result of IBD. Here are a few that are commonly recommended.
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends calcium for all IBD patients, particularly if you take corticosteroids to help manage your disease or if you been diagnosed with a bone disorder such as osteoporosis.
Low-fat dairy, broccoli and dark leafy greens are good sources of dietary calcium.
The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily calcium intake of 1,000 milligrams (mg) for women up to age 50 and men up to age 70. Women over 50 and men over 70 should take 1,200 mg of calcium each day.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so these two supplements work best when taken together.
Vitamin D is known to help control inflammation in the intestinal tract and has been recently recognized as an immune system regulator.
Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, dairy and fortified cereals.
A study of the effectiveness of vitamin D3 on Crohn’s disease patients found that patients who took 1,200 IU of vitamin D3 daily for one year had fewer relapses than those who were randomized to the placebo group.
Other supplements such as zinc and iron may also be helpful if you have been diagnosed with a deficiency. Talk to your doctor about what other lifestyle changes and natural remedies may help with your inflammatory bowel disease.