What Foods to Avoid if You Have a Stricture

Strictures Can Be A Complication of Crohn's disease

It is important for people who have Crohn's disease to know that they are at an increased risk of developing a stricture in their small intestine. Keeping inflammation from the disease under control is going to be important to preventing strictures. Diagnosing strictures quickly and using the latest medications and surgical techniques can help get a stricture under control and prevent it from happening again.

A stricture is a narrowed section in the intestines. The intestines are normally an open tube (much like a hose) that allows food to pass through and become digested. For people with Crohn's disease, the small intestine can become narrowed over time as inflammation causes scarring. The scars in the small intestine can become so prevalent that they actually start to block the open space inside, causing a stricture.

Strictures are of great concern to people with Crohn's disease because if a stricture causes the small intestine to become too tight on the inside, it could lead to a blockage (bowel obstruction). Blockages can be caused by one or more of several different factors, including adhesions, scar tissue, inflammation, or undigested food. People who have strictures may need to alter their diet to ensure that the narrowed portion of their intestine does not become blocked. Certain foods may be more likely to get hung up inside the stricture and not be able to pass through. Some of those foods that people who have strictures may want to avoid, limit, or chop and cook very well before eating are listed below.

Popcorn

Bowl Of Popcorn
Popcorn is very fibrous, and should be avoided by those who have a stricture. Photo © Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many people realize that corn is a food that is difficult to digest. Even for people who do not have any digestive disorders, corn may pass through the body only partially digested. Just looking at popcorn, it can be easy to see why this food is difficult to digest: it contains hard kernels. Besides that, every bag or bowl of popcorn seems to have a few unpopped kernels in it. Popcorn is also insoluble fiber, which can bulk up the stool, and may not be desirable when a stricture is in play. Popcorn is more of a snack, and isn't a necessary part of a healthy diet, so it can be avoided fairly easily, and cutting it out of the diet poses no nutritional problems.

Nuts

Nuts
Nuts tend to be more difficult to digest, and are therefore usually best avoided by people who have a stricture. Image © Gualberto107 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nuts are also generally understood to be a food that is difficult to digest. They're hard, they take some time to chew, and even after chewing they still retain their grainy texture. Nuts also contain phytic acid, which may impede the digestion of protein and starch. Nuts do contain some beneficial fats and oils, such as omega-3 fatty acids, as well as various vitamins and minerals. Fatty acids can also be gotten from flaxseed oil, soy, and fish, so eliminating nuts from the diet is generally not a problem for nutrition.

Raw Vegetables

Bok Choy
Photo © SOMMAI / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Raw vegetables can pose some problems for people who have strictures.

Vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, and contain many different vitamins and minerals that are needed by the body, including vitamins A, C, E, and K, and folate. However, vegetables are also very fibrous, which makes them difficult to digest. In order to avoid a blockage at a stricture point, raw vegetables should be avoided, but they can be processed to make them easier to digest. Vegetables can be cooked, chopped finely, or pureed to make them easier to pass. Removing all vegetables from the diet is generally not recommended because of their benefits to overall health. Most Americans already do not eat enough vegetables on a daily basis, so keeping vegetables in the diet whenever possible is important.

Meats

Beef Dinner
Certain more fibrous cuts of red meat should be avoided by people who have a stricture. Image © rakratchada torsap / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
While not something that needs to be avoided all together, certain cuts of meat might be problematic for people who have a stricture. In general, any meats that are eaten should be lean, well cooked, and chewed well. Going one step further, the more fibrous and fatty cuts of red meat should be avoided. Sticking to leaner, more tender meats and slicing or cutting meat into finer pieces may help them to be easier to pass.

Seek Help With Diet

Patients that have a stricture should be monitored closely by their gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist will be the best resource on how and when the stricture should be treated. Any dietary restrictions should also be discussed with a healthcare professional, and in a best case scenario, a dietician or nutritionist with experience in managing patients with strictures should provide assistance with a diet plan. In some cases, a low fiber, or restricted fiber diet may be recommended for a short period of time. Cutting nutritional foods out of the diet whole-scale is typically not recommended. However, in the case of strictures, certain foods might need to be avoided for a period of time until the stricture is resolved. Patients who have any questions regarding their diet should always consult their gastroenterologist.

Source:

Casagrande SS, Wang Y, Anderson C, Gary TL. "Have Americans Increased Their Fruit and Vegetable Intake? The Trends Between 1988 and 2002." Amer J Prevent Med. April 2007;32(4):257-263. DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2006.12.002

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