Food for Thought: Why People with IBD Should Keep a Food Journal - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on February 04, 2013

Food for Thought: Why People with IBD Should Keep a Food Journal

If you have a chronic Inflammable Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, you probably are extremely wary of foods that will trigger your symptoms. The thought of eating can be discouraging, especially as the variety of your “safe foods” dwindles.

While medicine is the only way to treat IBD, establishing a proper diet can help you manage uncomfortable symptoms. Unfortunately, food that may be safe for one person with IBD may be a trigger for another, so there is no definitive list of foods to avoid. But here’s one way you can figure out a nutritional and balanced diet unique to your specific needs: Create a food journal.

By recording the quantity and type of foods you consume, as well as how you feel afterwards, you create a food/symptom archive that allows you to easily identify specific culprits that irritate your IBD. To get started tracking your diet requires a mindset shift – rather than your usual practice of avoiding certain foods, you’re actually encouraged to try new foods. Testing different quantities of foods that spark your IBD symptoms is also recommended, since your body may tolerate small portions of typical trigger foods, such as lactose. And when it comes to certain foods - such as milk or soy - that are common ingredients in other foods, you can begin to expand and enjoy more of your dietary options. In moderation, of course. 

Maintaining a balanced diet is critical, but it’s difficult with IBD. However, you risk having more frequent flare-ups, as well as fatigue, dehydration, and more. In addition to relieving digestive irritation, a healthy and controlled diet can also promote normal absorption of nutrients and even increase the effectiveness of IBD medications.

To reap the most benefits from your food journal, try the following when monitoring your food:

  • Track everything you eat in a small notebook or food symptom chart.
  • Record the type and quantity of the food you’re eating. Try to be as detailed as possible, including the way food was prepared. Specific ingredients or toppings on foods may trigger IBD, as opposed to the entire meal itself. As mentioned earlier, the amount of a food item consumed can also impact whether or not it flares IBD.
  • Monitor your symptoms with detailed notes, or by establishing a rating system, such as a 1-10 rating scale.
  • Record the date and time you ate each meal or snack.
  • Try different foods to broaden your dietary options.
  • Diligently track your food consumption in the journal for at least three weeks. This will allow you with enough information to pick out which foods may or may not be safe.

Additional recommendations for controlling symptoms of IBD also include eating smaller meals more frequently, as well as foods that are easier to digest.

You should start recognizing the good foods from the bad after a few weeks, leading you to what could be a healthier and happier lifestyle. If you have any questions or concerns about the foods you should and should not eat, it is best to discuss them with your doctor and/or a nutritionist. 

Crozer-Keystone offers a range of board-certified physicians who are trained in the latest technologies and procedures to comprehensively diagnose, manage and treat gastrointestinal and liver conditions. For more information or to make an appointment, visit or call 1-877-CKHS-GI1 (254-7441).


Related Locations

eNewsletter Signup

Our eNewsletters from Crozer-Keystone Health System help keep you up-to-date on your health and well being. View recent editions or sign up to receive our free eNewsletters.