One of my biggest health missions is always to gain weight. Yes, you might think that’s strange being a ‘health blogger’ but having IBD can make it much more difficult to stay at a healthy weight. In fairness, I’ve always been ‘slim’, but I can definitely get an idea about my condition based on the weight I’ve gained (or more often than not- lost)
Not everyone with IBD struggles to gain weight- it’s a bit of a myth that all of us are super-skinny too! If you’re looking to lose weight, I actually write a blog post on safely losing weight with IBD last year so give that a read. However, if you’re looking some practical tips on gaining weight safely and healthily with IBD then keep reading.
1.Seek professional help
The most obvious I know but if you’re underweight or losing weight rapidly; no blog post can transform that! So definitely do ask to see a dietician.
I’ve not had the greatest experiences with dieticians myself but completely recognise the work they do and they may also be able to prescribe an elemental drink; which would at least help you get plenty of fats and calories whilst experimenting with your diet. If you’re losing weight, do not attempt to restrict your diet-e.g. giving up dairy-without proper medical help.
2. Traditional ‘high fat’ choices might not work
A dietician might prescribe full-fat foods but the problem with this is that many traditional fatty foods can worsen symptoms. Full example full-fat milk might cause a problem if you have problems with dairy (more on Crohn’s and dairy here) whilst high-fat foods can increase gut motility and cause you to rush to the loo. So although these items do contain lots of fat; they’re likely to worsen your symptoms (especially if they contain other potential triggers such as preservatives, sweeteners and MSG) and if you can’t keep the food down, you’re not going to see the benefit!
3.Exercise can help
You might think the opposite would be true, but the proper exercise can help you bulk up! Fellow IBD blogger Alex from Girl in Healing explains that getting more exercise and strength training helped her the most!
4.Eat healthy fats at EVERY meal
Instead of a huge, fatty meal; try to focus on smaller doses of healthy fats; but spreading them out across the day with each meal (so your gut doesn’t have a huge amount of fat to handle at once). Examples might be:
- 1/2 an avocado
- 1 tablespoon of nut butter
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or hemp oil
- 1 portion of oily fish
- A few squares of dark chocolate
- A few tablespoons of coconut cream
- 1 teaspoon of ground flax seed
- Leaving the skin on chicken
Note that the portions here are really small so they should be ok for your body in small doses. Omega 3 fats in particular (from fish and flaxseed) is also thought to help inflammation. Try my sweet potato, fish and avocado recipe for an example. One thing I’ve also been doing is keeping the skin on the chicken when making my gut rest and repair soup-it tastes yummy and is a good source of fats.
5.Eat more often
When I used to do nutrition consultations, I was really surprised how long people went between eating (or perhaps how often I ate!). Breakfast really is an important meal as your body has been ‘fasting’ overnight and needs the energy to get on with the day ahead! Yet so many people would perhaps finish eating at 6pm one day and not eat until 11 am the next.! That’s a huge amount of time your body is running on empty and if trying to gain weight; I would definitely advocate a ‘little (or large!) and often approach. Keep a log of what you eat-you might be surprised!
Having higher fat drinks can help as it’s an easy to digest state. For example, if you don’t feel like eating of a morning; try a smoothie-adding 1/2 an avocado and nut butter instead. Another example of this is things like bone broth.
Add healthy fats to your morning smoothie-including this Pumpkin and Turmeric smoothie recipe.
Juicing doesn’t contain fat but it can still help you with nutrients when feeling low;
7.Elemental Drinks can help
Now I’ll be honest, when I first heard about elemental drinks, I wasn’t a huge fan there’s a lot of milk and sugar (both of which can be triggers). However if you can tolerate them, you should absolutely give them a try. The focus should always be on getting enough fat and calories rather than ‘worrying’ ingredients aren’t healthy enough (and to be honest, if your body has been on long-term medication, it can handle a bit of sugar). A lot of you have asked about healthier alternatives to Elemental Drinks-and the closest I’ve come across is Huel– I haven’t tried this myself but it does look nutritionally balanced (however, it does contain more fibre than some of us might be able to handle and they state on their website this might be a problem if not in IBD remission-which seems very responsible of them!)
8. Protein power
Don’t forget the power of protein too! Those of us with IBD need a lot of protein to help us repair the gut and to help with fatigue. Making sure you add a protein powder (I use a dairy-free pea one) can really help.
9. Take care of yourself.
And finally take care of yourself. If you are rushed off your feet and not resting, your body won’t be able to effectively use the food you’re supplying it with. The priority for gaining weight always has to be to get the flare under control first.
I hope that helped! Do share any tips of your own below; I’d LOVE to read them.
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