Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease in the family of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus but most commonly involves the intestines.

  • Overview
  • Action Plan
  • Ask The Doctor
  • Related Info
  • Success Stories
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Crohn’s disease is a disease that is most common in Westernized areas, such as North America, Australia, and Europe, but is also spreading to developing countries as Western lifestyles, such as poor dietary habits, creep in. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that the prevalence may be approximately 0.2%,1 and this number is getting higher over time.

Some of the potential explanations of this geographical trend include Westernized factors, such as antibiotic use, hygiene, exposures to certain infections, pollution, and diet. A higher risk follows those with a family history of the disease as well. Intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and altered intestinal bacteria seem to play an important role, but it is still not known exactly what causes Crohn’s disease.

Those with Crohn’s disease may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Malnutrition, bone loss, and weight loss from intestinal malabsorption
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever
  • Possible joint pain

For those with Crohn’s disease, improvements in nutrition, lower inflammation, and intestinal bacterial balance can occur with nutritional excellence.

  1. Kappelman MD, Moore KR, Allen JK, Cook SF. Recent trends in the prevalence of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis in a commercially insured US population. Dig Dis Sci 2013, 58:519-525.

Action Plan


  • A modified Nutritarian diet may be used to help manage Crohn’s disease.
  • The foods that are part of a Nutritarian eating style are better at preventing a flare-up and helping the intestines heal.
  • Modifications may be needed and may need to be personalized, particularly for those having a flare-up. When experiencing a flare-up, raw and higher fiber foods, such as salads, fresh fruits, and beans, for example, may make symptoms worse. The use of more cooked, soft, high carbohydrate natural foods, such as butternut and acorn squash, cooked turnips, parsnips, peas, and carrots, as well as steel cut oats are recommended and may be tolerated better.
  • If one is having a flare-up, it may be required to use medication to control the inflammation better first before increasing raw salads, fresh fruits, and beans, so talk to your doctor.
  • Some temporary modifications that may be helpful during a flare-up are to eat less raw food and more cooked, blend more food (smoothies, pureed soups), and add vegetable juices.
  • Many with Crohn’s disease will find they are sensitive to gluten, processed foods such as sugar, and animal products, and removing or reducing these over time may help. Other foods may be triggers and may be unique to each person, which may require an elimination diet to discover. Fruit intake may need to be reduced to low or moderate amounts in some.
  • Maximize the intake of immune-system-regulating, anti-inflammatory foods, such as high fiber, high micronutrient-dense foods including green vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables in particular are recommended to be eaten every day. All these foods seem to have a protective effect against developing Crohn’s disease.1


Research has suggested that healthy bacteria in our intestines are protective, especially in inflammatory bowel disease, and can help to reduce inflammation, as well as help to keep a normal functioning immune system.2 Although eating a fiber-rich diet helps to build up healthy bacteria over time, many with Crohn’s disease find it very helpful to take supplemental probiotics in higher doses. Ask your doctor to discuss if taking high dose probiotics is right for you.


Some with Crohn’s may benefit from taking supplemental omega-3 oils for their anti-inflammatory action as part of their treatment plan.3 High doses and special formulations may be necessary, so if considering this, please talk to your doctor to see if this is appropriate for you.

  1. Gentschew L, Ferguson LR. Role of nutrition and microbiota in susceptibility to inflammatory bowel diseases. Mol Nutr Food Res 2012, 56:524-535.
  2. Fava F, Danese S. Intestinal microbiota in inflammatory bowel disease: friend of foe? World J Gastroenterol 2011, 17:557-566.
  3. Belluzzi A, Brignola C, Campieri M, et al. Effect of an enteric-coated fish-oil preparation on relapses in Crohn's disease. N Engl J Med 1996, 334:1557-1560.

Ask The Doctor

The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)


I noticed that the newsletter on inflammatory bowel disease doesn’t mention beans or nuts and seeds (except for walnuts in phase 1). Are they generally introduced at some point?

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s and am following the Eat to Live 6-week plan. I am eating lots of beans, nuts and seeds, fruit, and raw vegetables. I’m not having any adverse reactions, and my symptoms have disappeared, although they were fairly mild to begin with.


They are not excluded, but nuts/seeds should be soaked and chewed very well or blended, and beans should be eaten in small amounts (well chewed) only and then increased gradually as tolerated. There is no problem with them unless people are having problems with them.


My son was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I am trying to determine the proper diet for him. Based on the reading I’ve done, it seems he should stay away from fresh veggies, fruit, seeds, nuts, etc., however, your books seem to say that this is exactly what he needs for good health. At what point should he start to eat the right foods instead of a simple carb diet that most recommend?


First, read my newsletter on inflammatory bowel disease where I discuss a patient’s diet with active Crohn’s or colitis.

I think the diets prescribed by conventional medicine are medieval. He should never be on a simple carb diet.

He should not avoid vegetables or seeds/nuts, however, they should be steamed/soaked and pureed.

Steamed zucchini, steamed and pureed squash, artichoke hearts, peas and turnips, soft cooked and pureed black rice, seeds and nuts smoothly ground into nut butters, and avocado are all good options.

He should be started on high dose EPA and VSL#3 too.


I have Crohn’s disease. My doctor recommended animal protein to deal with low albumin. How do you feel about this? Is there a specific protocol I should be following for my condition?


Crohn’s disease is a common cause of low albumin. The protocol I use involves VSL#3, high dose fish oil, both juicing and blending, and, of course, avoidance of all oil and animal fats. No protocol can be precisely right for every person, but you can find a newsletter in the member center here that contains the general autoimmune protocol and one that contains my protocol for inflammatory bowel disease. Your albumin will rise as your inflammation decreases and the problem is in better control. In the meantime, to help improve it, also add ground hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, Mediterranean pine nuts, and one cooked egg white daily to your meals.