Friday, November 11, 2011

The Thing About Trigger Foods

I have frequently advocated the value and benefit of keeping a symptom journal to help identify your personal set of trigger foods. These are specific foods or types of foods which cause your IBD symptoms to worsen. During the height of my flare up, I could not eat any spicy, acidic, dairy, fried, gassy, fibrous or caffeinated foods. The list of things I couldn't eat was longer than than the list of things I could eat. It was very difficult. Now, while I am in remission I can eat most things other than very spicy foods or much dairy.

Your list of trigger foods will be very personal to you and your form of the disease. No one can tell you which foods will cause you problems, you have to test it out yourself.

I have spoken often to other IBD sufferers and read many of their stories. I've also received several comments on this blog about food. Over time I've realized that many people have no idea what their trigger foods are. Worse, even more people know what they are, but continue eating them anyway. I find this very surprising and a bit sad.

I personally feel that most doctors and patients don't realize what a drastic impact trigger foods have on IBD and the quality of life for those who suffer with it. While a special diet will not cure your disease, it can greatly help with your quality of life. Avoiding your trigger foods can reduce your trips to the bathroom, ease your fatigue caused by frequent bouts of diarrhea, reduce gas and abdominal pain, and possibly reduce the irritation to your digestive tract. With all these benefits, why keep eating them?

Removing trigger foods from your diet requires extra work. I ended up having to cook a lot of things from scratch in order to avoid the ingredients in many store-bought packaged foods. I also had to pay extra attention to ways of getting the nutrients I might be missing due to a restricted diet. I took a multi-vitamin and consulted with my doctor about what I was doing. It was also recommended to talk to a registered dietitian about helping me to build nutritious meals around my restrictions.

I strongly believe that my strict attention to what I ate, allowed me to continue to live an uninterrupted life even while suffering undiagnosed with Crohn's Disease for 10 years. I did have frequent struggles with multiple daily washroom visits, but it never became an overwhelming number of washrooms visits and didn't interfere with my career or life very much. Sadly I wish I had been diagnosed sooner, because my digestive tract was being damaged over those years because I was not being treated, resulting in needing surgery. However, combining active treatment for your disease plus a careful diet is probably better than treatment alone.

So, next time you reach for a piece of pizza or cup of strong coffee... consider whether the short term benefit of it will be outweighed by the symptoms you'll get. Consider if there is something you can eat instead. What about some decaf tea, or baked chicken casserole? I see you're still reaching for that spicy taco... don't say I didn't warn you!

Take the IBD Trigger Foods Survey: so we can see what other people with IBD have learned about their trigger foods. Thank you!


  1. I just want to say thank you for this blog. You have a gift of saying exactly what I'm thinking about a subject and your letter to Crohn's was really touching. I was diagnosed with UC in 2003 just before I turned 16, re-diagnosed with Crohn's when I was 19. I am 25 now and thankful for every day of the last 4 years of remission. That has been due to a very strict diet, Humira and staying as positive as possible.

  2. I really like posts that highlight trigger foods to avoid. I know I especially have a hard time avoiding some foods that I should. Thank you and keep up the good work!

  3. Thank you all for reading. I'm glad that the articles and blog are helpful!

    Don't forget to take the survey, I will publish the results when I get a good number of entries.

  4. Really like the blog you have here BrightSide! I will actually be writing a number of posts on Crohn's disease this month, and would love to share one with ya! I'll let you know when they are up!

    1. Thank you... but I don't do much in the line of guest posts.