faqs for better gut health

Can you recommend an affordable blender to make smoothies?

Ask a Nutritionist

Everyone with IBD should have a high-quality blender. Blending makes it possible for people with active Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis to enjoy wholesome foods, like fruits and vegetables. Most blended or pureed foods are OK on a low-fiber diet.

 

We love the Vitamix, but it’s not an affordable option for everyone. Plus, it’s loud.

 

America’s Test Kitchen tested several mid-priced blenders to see how they make smoothies and crush ice, among other functions. The winner was Breville’s Fresh & Furious. Smoothies are very smooth, and there’s even a dedicated “green smoothie” button that “completely blends fibrous ingredients into a silky smooth drink.” Perfect for someone with an inflamed gut! Plus, it’s reasonably quiet and compact.

 

As of this writing, it sells for $199 on amazon.com.

 

How can Metamucil help me if I have diarrhea?

Ask a Nutritionist

Metamucil is a soluble fiber supplement. Its active ingredient is psyllium husk. At first, the thought of using a fiber supplement for diarrhea might sound counterintuitive. But, psyllium husk is a natural gel-forming fiber that improves stool form and reduces symptoms in chronic diarrhea and constipation. 

Unlike other soluble fiber supplements, psyllium does not cause gas because it’s not readily fermented in the large intestine.

Besides normalizing stool output, psyllium can lower lousy cholesterol and improve blood sugar control. This makes it a great choice for people at risk for cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

If you or your healthcare provider feel you might benefit from a trial of psyllium, we suggest you choose a pure psyllium seed husk powder versus Metamucil. Metamucil has lots of unnatural additives, including food colorings and sweeteners. 

In our experience, the powder form is more effective than capsules. Be sure to drink extra water no matter which form you take it.

Can probiotics help ulcerative colitis?

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Based on a combination of research and clinical experience, many practitioners recommend probiotic supplements for patients with Ulcerative Colitis (UC).

Research shows that people with UC have an imbalance among their gut microbes, a condition known as gut dysbiosis. Scientists suspect that dysbiosis plays a role in UC development and progression. Some IBD patients achieve and maintain clinical remission thanks to adding probiotics to their treatment plan. 

Visbiome, formerly VSL#3, is one of the best studied probiotics for UC. But there’s no one-size-fits-all so you might have to try a few probiotics to find out which work for you. Start with a combination probiotic that includes a variety of microbial species and strains. Products containing more than one organism offer a greater chance of success compared to single strain products.

Give yourself at least a week to adjust to a new probiotic. It’s not uncommon to experience gas, bloat, and other uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects while your gut microbes adjust these invading microbes.

Talk to your healthcare provider before adding a probiotic or any other supplement and keep in mind that a supplement won’t take the place of a healthy diet and lifestyle. We suspect that probiotic supplements work best when combined with nutritious foods, stress management, exercise and other healthy lifestyle modifications.

I’ve avoided vegetables for my IBD. How should I go about adding them back?

Ask a Nutritionist

Glad to hear you’re adding vegetables back to your diet! Living with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis does not mean you need to live without vegetables!

Here are 5 tips for reintroducing vegetables:

1. Add one vegetable at a time. Adding more than one food per sitting increases your risk of feeling unwell and will make it more difficult to determine the offending food.

2. Start with a small amount. One-half cup is a good starting point for vegetables.

3. If the vegetable has a peel then peel it. If it has a stalk, then remove it (e.g. broccoli, asparagus). If it can be cooked, then cook it. Cooked and peeled vegetables are easier for the gut to break down.

4. Chew your food well and eat slowly. This applies to all foods, all the time.

5. Choose a relaxed environment to reintroduce foods. Stressful environments can hinder your tolerance.

Not sure where to start? Lots of people with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis fare well with peeled and mashed root vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, and turnips. Others prefer peeled zucchini, summer squash, and seedless cucumbers.

What can I eat to gain weight with Crohn’s?

Ask a Nutritionist

Glad you asked!

Too often we hear from people with Crohn’s who are eating lots of ice cream, bagels and cookies to gain weight. These foods might add calories, but they also weaken our immune system and lead to inflammation and a sick, unbalanced gut microbiota. Plus, they rarely result in desired weight gain. Instead of highly processed junk and sweets, choose foods high in healthy fats and protein.

Instead, eat more avocados, nut butters (e.g. almond butter), olives, olive oil, coconut oil, plain coconut yogurt, chicken, salmon and other fatty fish. Smoothies can be a great way to include more healthy calories in your diet. Consider making a high calorie, high protein smoothie with banana, almond butter, avocado, oats, and other nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Consult our smoothie guide and sign up for our weekly newsletter for more healthy weight gaining tips and recipes!

Is it bad to eat late at night?

Ask a Nutritionist

From time to time, eating a late meal is OK, but you don’t want to make it a habit.

Your digestion and metabolism are most effective during the day when the sun is shining. Nibbling at night can interfere with these natural processes. Studies have shown that people forced to eat at odd times, such as night-shift workers, have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, hypertension and more.

Plus, eating at night takes a toll on the digestive tract and can worsen a variety of GI symptoms overnight and into the next morning. Your stomach takes about 3 hours to empty a normal size meal. If you go to bed on a full stomach, then you’re more likely to suffer from nocturnal heartburn and indigestion. Also, lots of folks with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis complain of frequent, loose stools in the morning. Eating a smaller dinner earlier in the evening can help.

Bottom line: It’s best to avoid late night eating. Try to follow the old saying: “Eat breakfast like a king/queen, lunch like a prince/princess and dinner like a pauper.”

What is lactose intolerance?

Ask a Nutritionist

Lactose intolerance happens when your body cannot digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk. This differs from a milk allergy.

Lactose intolerance occurs when there is not enough lactase, an enzyme produced by the small intestine to break down lactose. If your small intestine can’t break down lactose, then it moves into the large intestine where bacteria feeds on it. This fermentation process causes uncomfortable abdominal symptoms.

If you experience gas, bloating, abdominal pain or diarrhea shortly after eating milk products, particularly milk or ice cream, you might be lactose intolerant.

Good news: Hard aged cheeses, like Swiss and cheddar, and plain yogurts are lower in lactose and usually tolerated by people with a lactose intolerance.

More good news: Taking lactase supplements with lactose-containing foods might help you tolerate them better. We don’t recommend doing this all the time, but it’s a good know-how for the occasional ice cream craving.

How much water should I drink everyday?

Ask a Nutritionist

Everyone’s fluid needs are different, but the Institute of Medicine (IOM) developed an Adequate Intake (AI), or recommended average daily intake, for total water to prevent serious dehydration. The AI for healthy women is 2.7 liters (91 fluid ounces) and for healthy men is 3.7 liters (125 fluid ounces). This translates to roughly 11 cups of water for women and 15 cups for men, every day.

Sounds like a lot, right? Fortunately, total intake includes water from other beverages and food, such as fruit, vegetables, and broth.

Many healthy people meet their fluid needs by allowing thirst to guide them and drinking 64 fluid ounces of water per day (i.e. 8 8-oz cups or 2 liters) plus multiple servings of fruits and vegetables will be sufficient, but it’s not always enough for people with active IBD and others with increased losses.

To stay hydrated, consider buying a reusable water bottle and refill it often. Drink throughout the day; don’t wait until you feel thirsty.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration include thirst, headaches, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, irritability, weight loss, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, dry mouth and tongue, decreased urination, dark urine and constipation.

If you feel like water isn’t enough to keep you hydrated, then speak with your health care provider about homemade oral rehydration solutions.

How can I store herbs to keep them fresh longer?

Ask a Nutritionist

We hear you! A common complaint among home cooks is how quickly fresh herbs spoil. It’s a shame because fresh herbs are fabulous for gut health. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prolong the life of your fresh herbs.

1. To store herbs in the fridge for a few days, first snip off the ends, then take a dry paper towel and roll it tight around the herbs to hold in moisture. Cover with plastic or place in a container and store in the fridge. Change paper towel daily for best results.

2. Many herbs freeze well. Put them in a sealed ziplock bag and store them in the freezer. The faster they’re frozen, the fresher they’ll stay.

3. If using herbs within 24-48 hours then snip off their ends and stand up in a container with water (just like a bouquet) at room temperature. Cover and store in the fridge to make them last longer but be sure to change the water every 2 days.

4. For limp looking herbs, fill a bag with ice water, add herbs (this works well with basil) and soak until they perk up.

Is stevia better than artificial sweeteners?

Ask a Nutritionist

Like artificial sweeteners, stevia is a low calorie, sweeter alternative to table sugar. However, many folks prefer stevia because its active ingredient, rebaudioside A (Reb A), comes from a natural source.

Does that make it a better choice? Maybe. Maybe not. The verdict’s out.

What we can tell you is that most commercially available stevia products are a combination of the stevia extract Reb A and other ingredients, such as “natural flavors”, dextrose and erythritol.

Most people don’t think twice about these additives, but they can worsen GI symptoms in susceptible individuals. For example, erythritol can inhibit fructose absorption resulting in gas, bloating and diarrhea. “Natural flavors” can mean pretty much anything so it’s a gamble if you’ll tolerate them or not.

Also, research shows that Reb A impacts the gut microbiota in mice. Should we be concerned? Maybe. Maybe not.

We suspect that a little stevia is probably fine but if you feel funny afterwards, then stevia may be to blame. You might try a more expensive liquid stevia without additives or sticking with small amounts of natural sweeteners, like pure maple syrup or honey.

Are artificial sweeteners safe to eat?

Ask a Nutritionist

Sweeter than sugar, zero calories, and packaged in pretty pastel wrapping paper, it’s no wonder artificial sweeteners, such as Equal, Splenda, and Sweet ‘N Low, are popular sugar replacements.

But, are they too good to be true? We think so.

Research has linked the consumption of artificial sweeteners to a growing list of health concerns and symptoms, including poor gut health.

Click here to learn more about why and how to avoid artificial sweeteners.

Here are some of the questions we get asked most often. Do you have a question about what to eat with Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, or another gut issue? Submit below and we’ll add it to this section.

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