Do IBD Patients Care If You Eat Something They Can’t?

Even though no two IBD patients follow the same diet, there are some universal foods that the majority of people who suffer from Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis patients are told to stay away from. Those foods are: nuts, corn and popcorn. There are obviously a tremendous amount more on that list but those (in my mind) are the only ones I look at as “standard.”

My doctor always wanted me to do anything and everything if I was feeling well. And he also never restricted me food-wise because he didn’t want me to feel different. So when he told me I needed to avoid those three foods for the rest of my life, I took it very seriously.

When I went to the movies last weekend, my boyfriend asked me if it would be insensitive if he got popcorn since I obviously couldn’t have any. I loved that he asked because it was very considerate. It also made me think about this topic a little more.


For me, I adjusted many years ago to the fact that I couldn’t eat like everyone else. I didn’t always like it and still don’t but I have fully come to terms that if I try to eat like I did prior to ulcerative colitis or even before I had my entire large intestine removed, I will wind up in the hospital. No ifs ands or buts. It will happen and in order for me to protect my body and mind from being traumatized in a hospital setting, I better damn well eat what I know I should and avoid those things I have to.

Which brings me to my point. I am someone who could care less what other people eat around me. I am a vegetarian and have had many friends ask if it was okay if they ate meat when they were with me. The latter is a little different since being a vegetarian is a personal choice as opposed to something I have zero control over. Regardless, I react to both of those situations the same.

We all have to be able to co-exist in this world and it helps if we try to make it as easy for each other as possible. I am very cautious about doing or saying something to someone if I know the subject is a little sensitive for them. Over the years, my friends and family have learned that eating is probably the most sensitive subject for  me since so many occasions revolve around food.

Most patients who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease want to be treated the same as everyone else. They don’t want special accommodations unless they are very simple. They don’t want anyone worried about making something special for them or not eating because they don’t want to exclude them. Family and friends who constantly ask and wonder what someone is eating and how much just cause frustration for the patient. Of course, none of that is intended but it happens often.

I can understand how there are many people with Crohns or ulcerative colitis who feel angry at the fact that they can’t fully enjoy food or the same types of things they used to eat. Some would prefer to avoid social situations that revolve around food because it is too upsetting. In some ways, it acts as a reminder that your body isn’t the same as most and there is little, if anything, you can do to change that fact.

I wanted to write about this today because I think this is one of those topics that really depends on the individual. I tend to be under the belief that the longer you have IBD the easier it gets to be around other people eating and drinking things you can’t. The main reason I feel this way is not because Crohns or ulcerative colitis become easier with time. I just feel that with time come a lot of experience with your body which allows the reality of what you can and cannot handle or partake in to become clearer to you. For example, I restrict my diet and am OKAY doing so because I know firsthand what happens when I don’t do that. I have had too many years of issues so now, I understand the reality of my life.

If you are a loved one of a person with Crohns or ulcerative colitis, take the time to ask someone if you are eating something you know for sure that person cannot enjoy. Feel them out and if it seems like you eating it in front of them wouldn’t be good for your friend’s mental health then eat something else and enjoy that particular food a different time. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to have that particular food around your loved one; it just means for the time being it is better if you grabbed something different.


As a patient with Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis, how do you feel when others eat food around you that you can’t enjoy? Does it make you angry? Upset? Or, not care?

  • Victoria marie

    I hear many people with Crohns & Colitis avoid gluten. I myself know if I eat a few slices of bread I’m going to feel horrible within the next few days. Good on the boyfriend for asking, huge props to him :)

    • Marisa Lauren

      Many IBDers do avoid gluten. Think it works for some and is one of those things that isn’t harmful to give a try but it’s not the be all & end all diet in my opinion. :)

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  • Hope

    I always appreciate it when people ask. I always tell them no, go ahead and eat what you like. But knowing they care enough to ask is a big deal to me, and often just that little question is enough to make me not resent them for being able to eat food I can’t.

    It probably helps that I was a vegetarian by choice for 12 or 13 years prior to my UC diagnosis, and I’d had to eliminate dairy and eggs 2 years earlier due to non-GI allergies. So I was already used to gazing lustfully at people’s cheese and wishing I could eat some. (You just cannot find good vegan cheese. Doesn’t exist.) I’ve had to make more dietary adjustments post-UC: no gluten or corn in any form, no nuts (though I do okay with nut butters), and no raw fruits or veggies. I was diagnosed 9 months ago, not that long, really, but it hasn’t been as hard for me to adjust to the restricted diet as I imagine it would be for someone who’d had no previous dietary restrictions. In fact, every time someone finds out about my diet, they always say, “Oh my god, that must be so HARD!” and I’m always a little surprised because now that I’ve adjusted it doesn’t seem that hard anymore.

    I know it’s weird, but what I envy people most now is a good salad. I would kill for a good crisp Caesar salad!

    • Marisa Lauren

      I completely agree!! We need to go out for salads!! I miss them too :( and veggies!) Love vegetarian food!

  • Dan

    Interesting. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me, nor would I want them to. The same way that I wouldn’t expect a vegetarian to worry about what I’m eating, I don’t worry about what anyone else is eating. I actually think the world is too obsessed with worrying about everyone else’s feelings.

    • Marisa Lauren

      Understood, Dan! :)

  • fearlessinsickness

    I’ve found I’m more open to trying new foods as opposed to before being diagnosed. If I feel an adverse reaction then I don’t go back to it, but it’s trial and error. I haven’t had much thoughts about friends/family/others although they all come very opinionated with what I should and shouldn’t eat – to which i just kindly remind them that I’m the best judge at that.

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading it.

    • Marisa Lauren

      That’s the first time I’ve heard someone being more adventurous after an IBD diagnosis. It’s a great way to be because like you said, trial and error really is the only thing that’ll allow you to see how it affects you. Xoxo

  • simply sky

    You’ve opened my eyes to how much my family has already changed the way the eat around me. I’ve personally bought a few cook books for Crohn’s and IBD and at first it i was just trying a recipe here and there but then my mom got a hold of them and plus after doing her own bit of research started cooking IBD and vegetarian friendly dishes without me asking. Same with my boyfriend any time we got out he tried to avoid any type of food that will upset my stomach. Which is really sweet but I rather him eat something that he enjoys. And I have to say that all I want now in the world are grapes and a good salad. This post made me want to sit down with everyone and tell them that they are free to eat whatever they want around me. I don’t want them to feel like they have to plan special meals or feel like they’re
    being insensitive of my Crohn’s.

    • Marisa Lauren

      It’s really difficult for family I think because they feel lost a lot of the time. It might be worth a conversation though. Would get everything out in the table. Sending hugs!

  • liz sangster (@TiggyLiz)

    I avoid popcorn , seeds nuts only because they can cause my bag to leak. really my mom is the only one who avoids having food around I can’t eat. everyone else , eats whatever they like.

  • danielleliesel

    I’ve not been asked – I’ve been asked if I can eat a certain food just so my family remembers not to give it to me in future but no one has offered to not eat something that I myself can’t. I don’t think I would want them to either, I think I would feel insulted more than flattered, maybe it’s because I have the British stiff upper lip, but I’d hate to think anyone would go out of their way to make me feel less sorry for myself. It’s no one’s fault that I have Crohn’s, it’s bad enough that I have to suffer, I don’t want them to suffer too.