How to Manage Bowel Condition Through Nutrition

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a treatable, yet chronic and lifelong condition. No plan has been proven to prevent or control IBD. But managing your diet can help manage your disease during flares and periods of remission. Be sure to talk to your physician or a registered dietitian about your nutrition needs and managing IBD.

Living with Bowel Conditions

Approximately 1.6 million Americans currently have IBD, a growth of about 200,000 since the last time CCFA reported. As many as 70,000 new cases of IBD are diagnosed in the United States each year. There may be as many as 80,000 children in the United States with IBD.

This is more than a statistic, though. This shows actual people who suffer everyday as a result of their bowel conditions. Some conditions can be managed and patients can live a somewhat normal life. Others though have debilitating symptoms that hinder them from achieving the same quality of life that people without conditions enjoy.


It has been shown that patients suffering from IBD has a much increased levels of stress hormones, often have anxiety and other mental disorders, even avoidance behaviors, such as worrying about where to find a restroom, embarrassment associated with the symptoms of IBD, and having to manage the difficult gastrointestinal symptoms. 


Some of the main symptoms of bowel conditions include cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and rectal bleeding — all of which can be severe. Symptoms can flare periodically, or they can occur nearly constantly. 


Patients report general body discomfort, bloating, and fatigue. Many have symptoms so bad that they can only feel relative comfort in bed or on the toilet, but even that is a small relief. 


Nutrition for bowel conditions


Most people with IBD enjoy healthy, active lives. While there isn’t a cure for IBD, treatments and lifestyle changes can keep the disease in remission and prevent complications.

Lifestyle changes can include changes to your diet. People with IBD often need to adapt their diets so that they get enough calories each day. Lactose intolerance can also be an issue for those with IBD.


Diet is important for everyone. Eating the right foods in the right quantities supplies your body with the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.

Information regarding dietary treatments for IBD is often confusing. Many people receive information telling them to avoid entire food groups or specific foods. However, there is no need to avoid foods unless they worsen your symptoms. It is best to restrict as few foods as possible to increase the chances that you are getting a balanced, nutritious diet. This is important for maintaining the function of your digestive tract and your overall health.


We all know that good nutrition is important for everyone - whether you have IBD or not. So, the question is - how do you get a balance of finding the foods that are ok for your IBD symptoms but will also help your body carry out its everyday functions? 

When you have inflammatory bowel disease, getting proper nutrition can be tricky. Your small intestine absorbs the nutrients from the food you eat. When you have chronic inflammation and other IBD symptoms, you may not absorb all the nutrients or digest things as well. That can lead to serious problems like malnutrition, weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.

Your IBD may put you at risk of some vitamin and mineral deficiencies - either because you aren’t eating enough of the foods which provide these nutrients or because your body is unable to absorb the nutrients properly.


Nutrition tips to manage IBD symptoms


Certain foods may aggravate symptoms, while others may calm them and promote healing. Therefore, paying attention to what you eat and how your body responds to different foods is an important component of a total treatment plan for IBD.


Manage symptoms with dietary changes and a low-residue or low-fiber diet that includes:

  • Eating smaller and more frequent meals

  • Taking vitamins and other nutritional supplements

  • Avoiding problem or triggering foods such as fatty and fried foods, meats, spicy foods, dairy, and fiber-rich foods because they often trigger symptoms of bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and cramping.


What To Eat During Flare-Ups


Decrease your fiber intake – Low-fiber foods are easiest to digest and are less irritating to the gut, especially with symptoms like abdominal pain or diarrhea.



  • Grains/starches: White foods, instead of wheat or whole-grain, and those with less than 2 grams of fiber per serving

  • Cooked vegetables: Well-cooked vegetables such as green beans, carrots, mashed potatoes without skin, steamed asparagus tips and pureed squash.Use fresh or frozen.

  • Canned or soft fruits: Peeled apples, ripe bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, and canned fruit in fruit juice or light syrup


Be sure to eat enough protein -- Inflammation causes increased protein needs.



  • Tender, well-cooked meats: Poultry, salmon or other fish, lean beef and pork prepared without added fat

  • Deli meats: Low-sodium and low-fat varieties

  • Eggs: Well-cooked

  • Tofu

  • Smooth nut and seed butters: Peanut, almond or sunflower seed


Drink plenty of fluids -- Aim for eight cups a day, and consider using oral rehydration beverages as needed. Try to limit caffeinated, sugar drinks and beverages made with sugar substitutes.


Limit added fats and oils -- Focus on oils instead of solid fats, and limit intake to less than eight teaspoons per day.

High Density Nutrition to Eliminate Most Symptoms


You may have heard about anti-inflammatory diets or anti-inflammatory foods. A good IBD diet is a type of anti-inflammatory diet, incorporating most of the standard recommendations for a healthy diet.

Adopting foods with high nutrition can make you feel better. Patients who follow a high-density nutrition diet no longer deal with issues like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Many often regain their energy, reduce feelings of fatigue, and become more active as well.


Almost all items in the high-density nutrition diet that relieve almost all symptoms are superfoods that offer anti-inflammatory properties and have high antioxidants.