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Managing Flares

Baylor Scott & White Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Eating During Flares

Most inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients report benefits from restricting their diet during flares. However, restricting your diet can put you at an increased risk of dehydration and protein-calorie malnutrition. Most patients need more calories, but tend to restrict their diet to eat more foods to decrease stool output and have fewer symptoms . While this is a short term solution, it is important to know how to manage your symptoms during a flare while also getting adequate nutrition to prevent these potential risks.

Listen To Your Body

Every IBD patient is different - disease varies from one patient to the next, they experience different symptoms, and have varying food reactions. Each person is different, so it is important to listen to your body. Some individuals find that they cannot tolerate foods during the flare that they otherwise can normally tolerate. Once you figure out your potential triggers, it is best to avoid those foods that worsen your flare symptoms until the flare subsides. These are some foods that commonly increase symptoms during a flare: 

  • Caffeine (increases motility, dehydration)
  • Alcohol (increases dehydration)
  • Spicy foods
  • High fat foods
  • Foods high in sugar and fiber

Liquids are often tolerated better than solids, therefore, supplements may be something to consider.

Nutrition Tips To Help You Through Your Flare

  • Make sure to get adequate calorie and protein intake
  • Liquid protein supplements/powders (preferably whey) can be used as meals or frequently throughout the day to help increase protein-calorie intake
  • If lactose intolerant, use milk substitutes such as almond milk, rice milk, lactose-free milk, or coconut milk
  • Avoid common food triggers: spicy food, high saturated or trans fatty foods, high fiber, and high sugar
  • Maintain hydration - in addition to water, drink fluids high in electrolytes. For example: G2, Propel, Powerade Zero, or make your own oral rehydration solution with 1 liter of water, 6 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp, salt

What About After My Flare?

After your flare, you should gradually add foods back into your diet. Start slowly and eat small portions. Try adding back one food at a time. Sometimes patients may have anxiety over particular foods which will take time to recover from. You can always make an appointment with your Registered Dietitian to help you get back on track with your nutrition and help give you guidance to prevent nutritional deficiencies.

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