If you have Crohn's disease, it's likely you struggle with getting proper nutrition. Your body may not digest and absorb nutrients very well from the foods you eat. And you may avoid some vitamin- and mineral-rich fare like dairy products because they're difficult to tolerate.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet whenever possible is an important step for good nutrition. But you may need to add supplements to your diet, too. It can be confusing knowing which vitamins and minerals you need. To help, ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian.
A dietitian will review your food intake and possibly use blood tests to pinpoint any nutritional deficiencies. Once your nutritional needs are identified, the dietitian can develop an eating and supplement plan for you to follow. This is important because getting needed nutrients helps you stay healthy, reduce symptoms, and feel better overall.
In addition to a general multivitamin, below are vitamins and supplements that people with Crohn's disease commonly take. Before adding any vitamins or supplements to your diet, first talk with your doctor or dietitian. Learning which supplements are right for you and in what dosage is important for optimal health.
1. Vitamin D
Close to 70 percent of people with Crohn's disease are thought to be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is important because it helps metabolize calcium and is important for bone health. Many people with Crohn's disease take vitamin D supplements in liquid form instead of pill form because the body tends to absorb it better that way.
Low levels of calcium can be closely tied to deficiencies in vitamin D, which helps absorb calcium. It can also occur alone. Oftentimes, people with Crohn's disease are lactose intolerant and avoid calcium-rich dairy foods. Others aren't able to absorb calcium because of disease or surgery of the small intestine. Long-term use of prednisone can also interfere with calcium absorption and increase calcium loss from bones.
Getting enough calcium is important for bone health. Aim to take 500 mg of calcium, three times a day. It's important to break up your daily calcium intake because too much calcium can't be absorbed by the body all at once.
Inflammation or surgery in the lower part of the small intestine is common among people with Crohn's disease. But both can cause problems with the absorption of vitamin B 12 in either food or supplement form. To avoid vitamin B 12 deficiency, which can interfere with the creation of new red blood cells and affect the nervous system, talk with your doctor about getting a monthly injection of the vitamin.
4. Folic Acid
Taking the drug sulfasalazine, which is a common treatment for Crohn's disease, may increase the risk for folic acid deficiency. Sulfasalazine can hinder the body from absorbing folic acid, which helps the body create healthy new cells. Taking a daily folate tablet can help.
Low iron levels, a common cause of anemia, can result from blood loss caused by inflammation of the colon. Iron supplements in liquid or tablet form can provide additional iron, an important nutrient for blood cell function.
Deficiencies in potassium can occur if you take prednisone or suffer from chronic diarrhea. Potassium is vital for the functioning of virtually all the cells, tissues, and organs in your body. Potassium supplements are available in tablet and powder form.
Like potassium deficiency, low amounts of magnesium can stem from chronic diarrhea. It can also be caused by inflammation or surgery of the small intestine. Magnesium helps many functions of the body, including the ability of the muscles to contract and relax. If you are deficient in magnesium, you may need to take magnesium oxide supplements.