The Best Diet for Crohn’s Disease

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Those with Crohn’s disease know just how much of a pain it can be. From abdominal pain to rectal bleeding, and other symptoms Crohn’s can be really painful and frustrating. The good news is traditional, nourishing diets, like paleo, can offer sweet relief from annoying (and sometimes outright discouraging) symptoms.

What Is Crohn’s Disease? 

Crohn’s disease (along with ulcerative colitis) is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It’s different from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a set of digestive symptoms and not a disease process. Both Crohn’s and colitis are autoimmune conditions. Aka the immune system attacks the body’s tissues. 

All autoimmune diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation. That’s because the immune system is overactive and triggers inflammation to promote healing. The challenge of any autoimmune disease, including Crohn’s disease, is finding what’s causing the immune system to over-respond. 

In Crohn’s disease, the immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract. While ulcerative colitis affects the mucosa lining the gut, Crohn’s disease extends through the gut wall into the serosa lining. About a third of Crohn’s sufferers only have disease in the small intestine. Half have both the large and small intestines affected, and about 20% have disease in the large intestine alone.

Those with Crohn’s disease can have long periods of remission and then have a flare when symptoms return or get much worse.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Here are some common symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Those with several of these symptoms may need to see a health practitioner, naturopath, functional medicine dietitian, or holistic doctor:

  • Chronic diarrhea (sometimes alternating with constipation)
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Bloating
  • Fever due to infection
  • Rectal bleeding from ulcers
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Abscesses (a localized infection)
  • Fistulas (abnormal tubes connecting 2 hollow organs, for instance, the vagina and colon)
  • Intestinal obstructions (strictures)
  • Nutrient deficiencies due to malnutrition

These are IBD symptoms in general, so may also be due to ulcerative colitis or infectious colitis. If someone suspects Crohn’s, a medical doctor will likely have them take a blood test to confirm this disease. They may also refer the patient to a  gastroenterologist, who may order further testing, like a colonoscopy. 

The symptoms above may come and go with flares and periods of remission.

Why Is Food So Important? 

Since Crohn’s is a disease of the digestive tract, it makes sense that the types of food eaten would affect symptoms. Crohn’s disease is also a disease of chronic inflammation. Certain foods cause inflammation for everyone. Healthy people just have a higher tolerance to inflammatory foods. They also seem to have faster inflammation-lowering responses. 

With Crohn’s, these foods can set off an inflammatory response that lingers. Removing typically inflammatory foods from the diet can help calm the immune response, allowing the gut to heal. Including plenty of supporting nutrients is also important for healing the gut. 

My family healed our guts using the GAPs diet. Some may find success following GAPS as well, but not if they have histamine issues. GAPS staples, like bone broth and fermented foods, are really high in histamines. In that case, the paleo diet might be a better option.

The paleo diet increases protein, fiber, healthy fats, potassium, and vitamin intake. It decreases carbohydrates, sugars, and preservatives. These changes can help someone with Crohn’s diminish their symptoms and live a more vibrant life free of pain and digestive distress.

Which Foods to Avoid with Crohn’s 

Everyone is different, but the following foods tend to be problematic for those with Crohn’s disease. Some of these (like margarine), are foods that I don’t recommend anyone consuming!

  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Sugar alcohols, like sorbitol
  • Whole grains, (especially with gluten)
  • Dairy products (many with Crohn’s are lactose intolerant)
  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Vegetable oils or margarine
  • FODMAP foods (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols)
  • High fiber foods
  • Legumes like beans, lentils, peas, and soy.
  • Peanut butter (Also a legume)
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol

What Not to Eat During a Flare

These are some general food categories that can cause problems due to their effects on inflammation or gut dysbiosis. However, during a Crohn’s disease flare, a temporary low-fat or low-fiber diet may be needed until the inflammation calms down.

According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, these foods may trigger pain or diarrhea during a flare: 

  • Insoluble fiber foods
  • Lactose
  • Sugar alcohols
  • Sugary foods
  • High-fat foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Spicy foods. 

When in remission, higher fiber foods, nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables are better tolerated.

Different foods can cause symptoms in different people. That’s where a customized paleo diet can be helpful. Keeping a food diary is a great way to really pinpoint what your trigger foods are. 

Which Foods Are Left? (Try Paleo)

The paleo diet focuses on everyday, modern foods that mimic the food groups of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. It’s higher in protein, lower in carbohydrates, and avoids foods introduced in the agricultural era. These are foods like grains, legumes, and dairy.

  • Higher protein intake – Protein makes up 15% of calories in the average western diet. That’s much lower than the 19-35% found in hunter-gatherer diets. Red meat, seafood, and other animal products are staple foods in modern-day paleo diets.
  • Lower carbohydrate intake  – Non-starchy fresh fruits and vegetables represent the main carbohydrate source.  These provide for 35-45% of daily calories. Almost all of these foods are low glycemic so they’re slowly digested and absorbed, and won’t spike blood sugar levels.

Foods that are usually well-tolerated by those with Crohn’s include:

  • Fish (especially types rich in omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Seafood (ideally, wild-caught/harvested)
  • Red meats/Lean protein (ideally, grass-fed or pastured-raised)
  • Eggs (duck eggs may be better tolerated for some)
  • Cooked, steamed, or roasted veggies
  • Fruits (cooked during a flare)
  • Nuts and seeds without added oil (not during a flare)
  • Healthy oils and fats (like tallow, lard, avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil).

In general, these are well tolerated by those with Crohn’s disease, but it’s also possible to have allergies to these foods. It’s not uncommon to have allergies to certain fish like cod, shellfish allergies, tree nut allergies, or allergies to chicken eggs –the whites, the yolks, or both. Personally, I don’t tolerate eggs well so it’s something I avoid. 

It may be worth it to do a blood test to make sure these healthy foods aren’t creating more inflammation. I use and recommend this genetic testing to help figure out which foods are helpful or harmful for someone.  

Paleo Cookbooks for Crohn’s Disease Diet

I’ve bought and tried recipes from several Paleo cookbooks over the years. Many I’ve even received as gifts! Here are a few I recommend:

There are a few more Paleo cookbook recommendations in this post. Because Crohn’s is an autoimmune condition, a specific autoimmune protocol, as outlined by The Paleo Approach, may be a good place to start. You can also find numerous paleo-compliant recipes on the Wellness Mama website.

Nutritional Supplements for Crohn’s

Food is ultimately the best source of nutrients, but Crohn’s usually causes deficiencies. Supplements can complement a balanced diet to help resolve these nutritional deficiencies. A few common ones associated with Crohn’s disease are:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. 

Your nutritionist or health care professional may recommend supplementing these. They may also suggest the following:

These supplements also help support overall health as they support gut health and lower inflammation.

Crohn’s Disease Diet: The Bottom Line

Crohn’s is a disease of chronic inflammation. To get Crohn’s disease under control, it’s critical to get the inflammation under control. While we can’t control everything we’re exposed to, we can definitely control diet. Focusing on a low-inflammation diet with plenty of clean, healing protein may help. The right diet can go a long way toward lessening flare-ups and improving quality of life!

Have you struggled with Crohn’s disease? Have you overcome it? What diet has worked for you? Please share with us below!

  1. Ranasinghe IR, Hsu R. Crohn Disease. [Updated 2022 May 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.
  2. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. (2022). What Should I Eat?. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation website.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). FastStats: Diet/Nutrition. website.
  4. Cordain, L., Eaton, S., Miller, J. et al. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: meat-based, yet non-atherogenic. Eur J Clin Nutr 56 (Suppl 1), S42–S52 (2002).
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


11 responses to “The Best Diet for Crohn’s Disease”

  1. Susan Avatar

    I copied and pasted a link about walnuts and gut health. I try to eat walnuts daily, and I chew very carefully. I would most likely be better off using a food processor to make walnut butter.

    Here’s my issue with walnut butter though. It is super oily. If I could perfect a recipe where I place the walnuts in the food processor and stop just before it gets too oily, that might work.

    I have not yet searched this site for walnut health benefits. I will read the post about Crohn’s again, but I don’t think there was anything about walnuts. According to my research, walnuts are essential for gut health. The only issue is that many Crohn’s and IBD patients cannot digest walnuts or any nuts. We use nut butters and nut milks.

    If you have the chance to purchase some walnut butter, you will see what I mean about the super oily texture.

    If I manage to come up with a formulation for walnut. Utter in the food processor, so you know how long the walnut butter would be good for? Would I have to refrigerate it?

    There are many articles out there on walnuts and gut health. If you are able to eat walnuts whole, I recommend eating some walnuts daily, especially if Crohn’s disease runs in your family.

  2. Susan K Avatar
    Susan K

    Well, I see
    That my comment has not been published, even though I put much thought into it. I went back and see that you are recommending a paleo diet for Crohn’s. As I said previously, meat consumption can be very dangerous for Crohn’s disease patients. It is far too fibrous. Only meat that is ground or cooked in the crock pot all day can be eaten with Crohn’s.

    These are the Crohn’s must haves:

    1. A gastroenterologist is essential.

    2. No red meat unless it is cooked in the crock pot.

    3. New Chapter fermented vitamins.

    4. Trace minerals ionic iron

    5. Carrot juice.

    6. Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. Food can’t cure Crohn’s. People just need to believe that it can’t happen to them. So they judge you for your illness.

    7. Join MyCrohnsandColitisTeam

    8. Use welness mama magnesium oil because it bypasses digestion.

    9. Use Morton salt substitute in addition to iodized table salt. Morton salt substitute is merely potassium salt. It’s a great way to keep your potassium levels up.

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Comments have to be approved and moderated so they aren’t immediately published. Most of the Wellness Mama team are working moms juggling families and work so we appreciate your patience as we go through the many comments that come in 🙂 Thanks for sharing your tips!

  3. Susan Avatar

    Hi Katie, I appreciate that I was sent the link alerting me to this post. While I enjoyed reading it, I will tell you what works for me. I will also point out what works for most others with Crohn’s disease.

    Firstly, Crohn’s disease patients should join an online support community such as MyCrohnsandColitisTeam for free online social support with other IBD patients and access to article by physicians.

    Additionally, while paleo can be good for Crohn’s, I don’t know one, single Crohn’s patient who is able to digest red meat, unless it is in ground meat form, such as meat loaf, or cooked all day in a crock pot. Red meat is highly fibrous and can cause internal bleed in us. It is also not very bioavailable and can easily be malabsorbed, thereby not really putting protein into your body at all.

    Your vitamin list is also not so good. I have Crohn’s since 2008. I had a gastric bypass in 2001. I am gluten free since 2004 when the doctors refused to test me for celiac. My gastroenterologist all think I have celiac though and said even if I don’t have it, that it is still a gluten allergy. So as you can see, I’m very experienced with treating my malabsorption and deficiencies. Heck, I even had a port for five years for severe anemia.

    1. I take New Chapter fermented multivitamins One Daily. The ferment provides for superior absorption.

    2. I take Trace Minerals ionic iron drops. They are ionic sized particles and bypass the digestive process. Point in case, during my recent flare, my hemoglobin was almost 14.

    2. I also take a
    Little wheatgrass because that helps to build hemoglobin. It is certified gluten free. It also firms up my stools a little.

    It is also necessary to see a gastroenterologist. Crohn’s can be on a spectrum anywhere from mild to severe. I can’t tell you how many alternative health practitioners, religious zealots, website owners, chiropractors and functional nutrition practitioners have told me they can cure my Crohn’s and that it is completely my fault for being sick because I
    Must have failed to comply with their advice. They are in complete denial of the potential deadliness of this disease.

    Ignorance is not bliss.

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Thanks for your personal perspective. Several different people with Crohn’s (who are now in remission) contributed to the research of this article and shared the methods that worked for them to heal. Everyone is different and I’m glad that you were able to find what works for you.

      1. Susan Avatar

        Jamie, Thank you for letting me know that many Crohn’s disease patients, who are in remission, contributed to this article. I am not a health practitioner of any sort. However, I often wonder why so many people I know tell me about their supplements and anemia or malabsorption issues, but meanwhile their own health care practitioners have never told them about the importance of fermented multivitamins, wheatgrass ( which is gluten free BTW), ionic sized liquid vitamins that bypass digestion, nanoparticle sized vitamins that bypass digestion, and psyllium husk fiber for Crohn’s. I have personally helped people look up my supplements and do their own research, it I find it amazing that they have their own natural medicine practitioners that have not recommended these items. How on Earth could I be more aware of how to treat malabsorption than a nutritionist or a naturopath?

        It would be very interesting to read about the Crohn’s stories if people in remission that contributed to this article. If you can’t tell, Crohn’s is a very lonely disease. We are judged constantly, and many of us have learned to be very private due to this treatment. That is why we are active in online communities for Crohn’s. Thank you Jamie!

  4. Kim Avatar

    In your weekly email, you mentioned drinking your morning quart of water (with electrolytes and silica). Are you using silica homeopathic or in another form? And what are the benefits of that? Do you have a favorite electrolytes? I have been drinking a small glass of salt water and lemon in the morning. Thanks so much!

  5. Lea Gerlock Avatar
    Lea Gerlock

    So many great tips on all of your blogs. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  6. Jeanne Beebe Avatar
    Jeanne Beebe

    This advice is SO helpful! A family member has chronic ulcerative colitis, and I plan to share this with him and his wife. Sadly, he eats most of the foods that can cause problems, but maybe he can turn it around with these guidelines. Much remains to be said about whether he will embrace them, though.

    I really appreciate your help with so many health issues. You can’t be expected to solve all problems for all people. You’ve helped me and my family with several, and I thank you!

  7. Jonathan Avatar

    I find this article misleading in it’s dietary recommendations. As a longtime vegetarian, I still am able to maintain a Mediterranean style diet with no problems, despite having lived with Crohn’s for the past 10 years. Your research should be broader.

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