3 Stomach-Friendly Summer Salads
It’s no surprise that many summer staples are problematic for people with “sensitive stomachs” — my favorite euphemism for intestinal distress and the “sexy” symptoms that come with that. I’m referring to people who live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and/or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While IBS doesn’t cause the same inflammation, food can still play a key role in triggering or helping manage IBS, just as it can with IBD.
As a person living with IBD, I can attest to the fact that being mindful of diet becomes especially important during a flare-up.
“Traditional BBQ dishes contain excessive lactose, roughage, excessive sugar and greasy/fried foods that may exacerbate IBD symptoms,” says nutritionist Arielle Leben, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, from the IBD Center at NYU Langone Health.
Think about buttery corn, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, pork-laden baked beans — need I say more? Luckily, Leben and a fellow spoonie offered some great tips for creating an IBD- and/or IBS-friendly plate ahead of your next BBQ. According to Leben, “High-fat foods are harder to digest and may aggravate symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. When inflammation is located in the terminal ileum, or someone has a history of an ileal resection, diarrhea from bile acid malabsorption may occur.”
So what’s the answer? A lower-fat diet. “Skip recipes that call for heavy cream sauces, fried foods and higher-fat meats, and focus on lean protein sources, such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt,” Leben advises.
Following Leben’s advice, here are our top-three salad choices for summer.
Pasta and potato salads bode much better for IBD and IBS when made with Greek yogurt. “It serves as a great replacement for mayo, which contains no protein in a standard serving size,” Leben explains. There are also lactose-free options available.
Patient perspective: “I’ve had this before! It’s a summery BBQ side that doesn’t have a lot of added ingredients that could be inflammatory. I eat Greek yogurt every morning too.” — Caitlyn Smith, leader of Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis Support on The Mighty
Like Caitlyn, I live with ulcerative colitis, a form of IBD, and am a Greek yogurt fan. I used to avoid it because it’s pricey, but now I get more mileage out of it by using it in smoothies and as a substitute for sour cream in dips and/or toppings. One last note: For more than two decades, my various gastroenterologists have been divided on whether it’s good for IBD to add a probiotic pill to my daily handful of pills. I feel much better getting my probiotics naturally through my food, and Greek yogurt is packed with them! It’s saved me a lot of money since I stopped taking this supplement. (I swear I’m not being compensated by a Greek yogurt conglomerate.) Bring on the avocados!
Patient perspective: Caitlyn loves this recipe as well, as many of the ingredients regularly pop up on her shopping list. “I’ve never struggled with tuna, and I love avocado — it’s one of my favorite foods when I’m not feeling well. It just feels like it soothes my stomach!”
I personally don’t mind tuna either — how else can you get non-perishable seafood chock full of omega-3s for cheap? I do keep my consumption to a minimum for non-IBD reasons, but I would adore this recipe with salmon too!
Patient perspective: I polled stomach-sensitive Mighties on this particular crab salad, and they came out in droves to vote for it. It’s a summer favorite not only because it’s tasty, but because it also has high levels of omega-3s and vitamin B12, which people living with IBD can sometimes be deficient in. After speaking to Leben about skipping high-fat mayo, I found this marinated version that has olive oil (better fats) and no celery, which can sometimes fly under the radar as a sneaky source of insoluble fiber.
“Patients on a low-fiber diet with strictures or a history of small bowel obstructions should avoid celery. This insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and travels through the digestive tract unchanged.” (Sorry, celery — I’ll no longer see you as just water in stick form.)
I’m super curious to hear some of your favorite summer sides that weren’t mentioned here. Comment below or in our new Women+ With IBD group.