People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) often find themselves wondering what to eat. This can result in a diet that consists mainly of simple carbohydrates and tea, which is not a nourishing diet for someone who requires extra nutrients.
While a gastroenterologist, nutritionist, or dietitian are the best sources of information about diet, you need to undertake a certain amount of trial and error yourself. Especially if you’re newly diagnosed, you might not realize that better food choices are available.
Fruits that are easier to digest can be helpful additions to the diet. A diet consisting of many fresh foods is the best way to receive vitamins and minerals.
Remember to check with a doctor before adding or subtracting anything from your diet plan. Keeping a food and symptom diary is also a good idea when making dietary changes.
Papaya is one example of a fruit that is often easier to digest. In fact, it can actually aid your digestion of protein.1
Papayas contain an enzyme called papain that breaks down proteins and makes them more available for use by the body. In fact, it’s so effective that this enzyme is used as a meat tenderizer.
Like most fruits, papayas are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of the vitamins and minerals that can be found in papayas include those that may be deficient in people with IBD:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
Bananas are one of the world’s most perfect foods. From a practical standpoint, they couldn’t be any easier to eat—they come in their own packaging and can be eaten almost anywhere without utensils or even a napkin.
They’re a good source of potassium, which is a nutrient that people with IBD may be lacking. Other vitamins and minerals contained in bananas include:
Bananas are easy to digest and are often recommended for people with vomiting and diarrhea. If you have a j-pouch or an ileostomy, you may find that bananas help thicken up the output and help you avoid or clear up loose stools.
With IBD, you’re best off choosing bananas with no green left on the skin. Look for solid yellow or even the beginning of brown spots. Ripe bananas like these are easier to digest and contain more antioxidants than unripened ones.
Cantaloupe is a type of melon with a fragrant, fleshy interior. In the United States, the cantaloupe we often find in the grocery store is actually called a muskmelon.
All the varieties of cantaloupes contain many nutrients important to better health, and in fact, contain some that are quite important to people who have IBD. Cantaloupes are high in:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Dietary fiber
Cantaloupes are sweet when eaten raw, and because the flesh of the fruit is so soft, can be easily blended into a smoothie. It can also be mixed into a fruit salad with other easy to digest fruits, or eaten with yogurt.
Cantaloupes should be sliced and eaten when they are properly ripened so that the flesh is not too hard.
To choose a ripe cantaloupe, give the end of the melon a little push. You should feel a little bit of give in the outer rind—it should not sink in too much, or be hard and resistant.
To save the cantaloupe for eating in a few days, choose one that does have the harder rind on the end, and let it ripen on the counter for a day or two. After it is ripe, store it in the refrigerator.
Watermelon brings on thoughts of summer barbecues and eating outside, but many grocery stores stock watermelon all year-round. That’s good news for people with IBD who need nutrient-packed, easily digestible foods in their diet.
The seedless variety isn’t completely seedless, but it is largely so, which is also helpful for those who need to avoid the seeds in their food.
Watermelon is high in:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
Watermelon also contains some potassium—not as much as some other foods, but a little surprising extra for this melon.
You should note that watermelon is high in FODMAPs, and should be consumed with caution in patients with dyspepsia and/or IBS.4
True to its name, watermelon has a high water content. Hydration is key for people with IBD.
Honeydew is a type of melon that often gets a bad rep. It is sometimes ignored in favor of other fruits, but it can be a helpful addition to the diet for people who have IBD.
Honeydew has a smooth rind and a fleshy, light green interior. It has a mild taste and it is sweet when eaten alone but also makes a good addition to a fruit salad.
What makes honeydew a good choice for IBD is the fact that it is easily digestible and is also high in vitamin C.5
If it has a green rind, honeydew won’t continue to ripen on your counter or in the refrigerator, so you’ve got to make your best choice of the melon while you’re at the market.
A ripe honeydew has a rind that’s somewhere between creamy white and golden yellow, with no green. The rind should give a little when pushed: it shouldn’t be hard, and it shouldn’t be mushy.
Letting it stand for a few more days after buying it will make for a sweeter taste. Just don’t let it go too long — it can get become overripe and develop an unappetizing texture.
- Krasnova TN, Samokhodskaya LM, Ivanitsky LV, et al. Impact of interleukin-10 and interleukin-28 gene polymorphisms on the development and course of lupus nephritis. Ter Arkh. 2015;87(6):40-44. doi:10.1080/10942912.2012.709210
- Banana. Food Data Central. US Department of Agriculture.
- Cantaloupe. Food Data Central. US Department of Agriculture.
- Capili B, Anastasi JK, Chang M. Addressing the Role of Food in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptom Management. J Nurse Pract. 2016;12(5):324-329. doi:10.1016/j.nurpra.2015.12.007
- Honeydew. Food Data Central. US Department of Agriculture.
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