December 1st-7th, 2016 marks the 5th annual Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week. Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis is also known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which affects roughly 1.6 million Americans, including myself.
Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week is meant not only to shed light on IBD but also to show support and appreciation to patients and caregivers. IBD is an incurable gastrointestinal autoimmune disorder that is characterized by inflammation in the digestive tract.
Symptoms of IBD may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever and weight loss. Although these symptoms can be painful and debilitating, they are largely invisible and not well understood (hence, awareness week).
Good nutrition is a key component of managing IBD. However, it is often difficult to achieve while symptoms are active. During a flare, inflammation throughout the digestive tract makes it difficult for those with IBD to absorb nutrients from food.
Patients may also alter their diets to eliminate foods that may worsen symptoms and cause additional discomfort. Depending on a patient's condition, this may mean eliminating some or all of the following: red meat; spicy, fatty, or sugary foods; dairy; whole grains; raw fruits and vegetables; nuts; and seeds. Eliminating these foods may also mean eliminating a lot of nutrients from the diet.
For someone who loves food, this was a reality that was hard for me to accept. When I was first diagnosed, 5 years ago, the only foods that I could handle eating were white rice, applesauce, chicken broth, and occasionally, plain chicken breast. This was a super boring diet, and I was not a fan.
Every once in a while, I would gorge myself with my favorite foods and hope that my digestive system could take it. Every once in a while, I would also find myself in urgent care due to my poor decisions ( I was a very stubborn 17-year-old).
Since then, I have found a better way to enjoy eating while still caring for my health. Below are three tasty, IBD-friendly recipes that are also easy to make.
1. Peanut Butter Banana Shake
When I am going through a bad flare, it is often difficult for me to eat solid foods, especially first thing in the morning. This shake is an easy way to get in my morning calories. Bananas are full of potassium and great for digestion. Peanut butter and almond milk provide an added boost of protein. Optional: Add a couple teaspoons of coconut oil for extra calories (also anti-inflammatory).
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Shake
- Prep Time:5 mins
- Cook Time:0
- Total Time:5 mins
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups almond milk
- 1 tbsp. peanut butter
- 1 tsp. cocoa powder
- Honey to taste
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend. Add more or less almond milk to adjust the thickness and sweeten with honey if desired.
2. Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup
This is another good recipe if you are not ready for solid foods. Carrots are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin K and dietary fiber, which aids digestion. While raw carrots can be difficult for the body to break down during a flare, these carrots are cooked until they are soft and easy to digest.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to soothe the stomach and combat nausea. Garlic and turmeric may also help to ease inflammation. Vegetable stock may be used in place of chicken stock, but the chicken stock is a good source of protein and provides great flavor.
Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup
- Prep Time:5 mins
- Cook Time:1 hr
- Total Time:1 hr 5 mins
- 2 lbs carrots
- 32 oz unsalted chicken stock
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 oz fresh ginger sliced
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4-1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4-1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4-1/2 tsp paprika
Peel and wash your carrots. If using really fat carrots, cut into smaller chunks.
Place carrots onto a lined baking sheet and drizzle with honey and olive oil. Toss carrots with garlic, ginger, thyme, salt and spices.
Roast carrots at 400° F for 30-45 min or until tender. Allow carrots to cool for 10 minutes.
Combine roasted carrots and chicken stock in a blender and carefully blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a pot and heat over medium heat for about 10 min.
Note: I found that 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, cumin, paprika and turmeric provided adequate flavor without irritating my digestive system during a moderate to severe flare. If spices aren't an issue for you, go ahead and add up to 1/2 tsp each.
3. Lemon Broiled Salmon and Garlic Chard
If you are up for eating solid food, this is a super simple recipe to try. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which studies have shown can help reduce inflammation in patients with IBD. Swiss chard is a dark, leafy green that is rich in Vitamins A, K, and C as well as calcium and iron. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Broiled Salmon and Garlic Chard
- Prep Time:5 mins
- Cook Time:10 mins
- Total Time:15 mins
- 3 cups Swiss chard
- 3 cloves garlic sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 skinless salmon filets
- 1/2 lemon thinly sliced
- salt pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
Thoroughly wash Swiss chard. Remove ribs and roughly tear into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Place lemon slices at the bottom of a lined baking dish. Place salmon filets on top of lemon slices and season with salt, pepper and cayenne (optional).
Broil for 5-10 minutes or until cooked through.
While the salmon is cooking, heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic and cook until golden brown, about 1 min.
Slowly add Swiss chard to pan a cup at a time and allow to wilt down before adding the next cup. Season with salt and continue to cook until fully wilted, about 5 min.