A small taste of anti-inflammatory food

Learn about the real impacts that anti-inflammatory foods can have on managing your IBD and a few alternative ways to include nuts in your diet.

By Anne-Marie Stelluti

About the Author
Anne-Marie Stelluti is a registered dietitian in Vancouver and business owner of Modern Gut Health, a private practice with a special focus in digestive health nutrition. She is a graduate from McGill University and is a member of the College of Dietitians of British Columbia

Can anti-inflammatory foods have any benefits for
people with IBD?

Anti-inflammatory foods can definitely have benefits for people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and I recommend an anti-inflammatory diet to all of my clients with IBD. By eating more anti-inflammatory foods, like walnuts and extra-virgin olive oil, and less pro-inflammatory foods, like refined white sugars and processed foods, this can help reduce the levels of inflammation in the body.

Eating certain anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric has even been shown to help reduce CRP levels, an inflammatory marker in the blood and one that is elevated during a flare-up of IBD. Eating anti-inflammatory foods regularly may help promote remission and prevent flare-ups, thereby reducing the risk of surgery and/or use of medications.

Food is notoriously hard to study in IBD because there are so many confounding factors, including the type of IBD, location of the disease, diet, and all the different medications and supplements involved. Although we still need high-quality research in this area, it makes sense that eating more anti-inflammatory foods can only help, and it certainly isn’t harmful when you’re eating real and whole foods.

Food is an area that people can control, and I feel that people living with IBD want to do everything they can to reduce their risk of flare-ups, and an anti-inflammatory diet is a healthy and unrestrictive way to do it. There is no one anti-inflammatory diet, however, and the key is to eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods daily, whether you’re following a Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diet, paleo diet, or no special diet at all. Nutrition plays a huge role in the prevention of disease and optimisation of health, and it’s never too early or too late to start eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

What should people with IBD know about consuming
solid nuts?

People with IBD should know that when they’re feeling well and in remission, they will likely tolerate solid nuts well. It’s important to chew them well however, at least fifteen chews per bite of solid food for optimal digestion and processing.

Nuts are a great source of protein, energy, fibre, and healthy anti-inflammatory fats, which is especially helpful for those who need to gain weight. They also make an easy and portable food to snack on. The exception to eating whole nuts during remission would be for people who have a stricture or narrowing of the intestine. They would have to avoid solid nuts in the long-term because of the risk of intestinal blockage.

Are there alternative ways to eat nuts?

During a flare-up of IBD, people living with IBD should know that they will likely not tolerate solid nuts in their whole form. I suggest having smooth nut butters instead to minimise any gut symptoms and give the gut some rest during this time. Smooth nut butters can also help to reduce diarrhea and maintain energy and protein levels during a flare. I suggest adding a tablespoon or two of smooth nut butter to sourdough bread, oatmeal, overnight oats, smoothies, energy balls, mild curries, and even certain soups (e.g. Moroccan, African).

Homemade Walnut Butter

You can also make your own nut butter (e.g. homemade walnut butter) if you have a high-powered blender or food processor, which is a lot cheaper than what you will find in the store, and it’s actually pretty easy to make.

It can be personalised to your taste and you can use a mix of your favourite nuts (raw or toasted), and/or coconut butter and even anti-inflammatory spices like cinnamon, ginger, or turmeric, to make it unique and flavorful.

Walnuts are one of the most anti-inflammatory nuts out there, and I recommend them to everyone following an anti-inflammatory diet to optimise both gut and brain health, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t want that?

Salad dressing

Smooth nut butters can be used to make an easy nut butter dressing (e.g. in a glass jar shake together 3 tbsp smooth almond butter, 3 tbsp vinegar: balsamic, red wine or raw unpasteurised apple cider vinegar, and 3 tbsp water)