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Can The Paleo Diet Treat Crohn's Disease?

By Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Founder of The Paleo Diet
July 3, 2013
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Crohn's Disease | The Paleo Diet

Hello Dr. Cordain,

My husband has had Crohn’s disease for most of his life along with many surgeries. I have been advised to check out The Paleo Diet, but have noticed that it encourages eating leafy greens. Our problem is that he cannot eat any type of leafy greens or roughage, as much as he would love to, it would go right through him and cause him severe stomach pain. I am strongly considering trying this way of life (a lot of which we have already incorporated), but do not want to if its not feasible for my husbands health. Do you have any suggestions to help me along this path? Your response is greatly appreciated!

Thank you,

Katie Jenan

Dr. Cordain's Response:

Hello Katie,

Many people have had success treating their Crohn's disease symptoms with The Paleo Diet. Crohn's disease is the result of autoimmune-based inflammation in the digestive system. The following foods should be avoided by those with Crohn's disease:

  • All commonly consumed cereal grains, including wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, and rice—note that rice is probably the least damaging grain.
  • All beans and legumes.
  • Potatoes and tomatoes.
  • All pseudo grains, including amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, and chia seeds.

Almost all plant foods contain lectins, but most seem to be benign when it comes to our health, except for lectins in grains, legumes, and a few other foods that may enter our bloodstream and interact with most cells in our bodies, including those in our immune systems. I've written extensively about this in my book The Paleo Answer, a good place for you and your husband to start as you adopt the Paleo lifestyle.

If your husband has difficulty consuming leafy greens and other "roughage" he should completely eliminate these foods from his diet until his gut has healed completely. He will still be able to absorb all of the nutrients he needs without consuming vegetables. Many hunter-gatherer groups (Inuit, Inupiat) subsisted on diets with little to no plant matter, and their populations remained healthy and free of modern diseases. It would be beneficial to focus on consuming a diet rich in animal proteins and fats, bone broth, and fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, etc.) that will aid in healing the gut. If his system can handle it, fruit should also be consumed in moderation. Eventually, he could experiment with introducing thoroughly steamed or cooked veggies back into his diet if necessary. I wish you the best of luck treating his Crohn's disease.

Cordially,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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