The ulcerative colitis diet can be followed by those experiencing UC, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes abdominal pain, diarrhea and ulcers in the colon.
Check out our recommended colitis diet foods to eat and to avoid.
In this article:
- Recommended diets for Ulcerative Colitis
- Foods to Eat for an Ulcerative Colitis Diet
- Foods to Avoid for an Ulcerative Colitis Diet
What to Eat to Relieve Symptoms Associated With Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of autoimmune disease. There is no cure for colitis, but flare-ups (the periods with symptoms) can be managed by medication and nutrition. An ulcerative colitis diet should remain flexible and include a variety of foods, but doctors may recommend restricting certain foods during flare-ups.
Recommended Diets for Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis can lead to malnutrition, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. The following diets may reduce symptoms and prevent flares:
1. Gluten-Free Diet
Many people with colitis may be sensitive to gluten. Gluten can trigger an inflammatory response which worsens symptoms. Wheat, rye and barley are major sources of gluten.
2. Low-Fat Diet
Ulcerative colitis prevents your gut from absorbing fat completely. Avoid trans fats and saturated fats found in red meat and deep fried or processed foods. Healthy fats such as avocados, fatty fish, and olive oil should still be part of your diet.
3. Low-FODMAP Diet
This diet is often recommended for inflammatory bowel diseases. The name stands for:
FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are difficult to digest. Restricting your intake of high FODMAP-food can reduce discomfort and increase nutrient absorption.
4. High-Calorie Diet
Some people with ulcerative colitis suffer from loss of appetite and diarrhea. A high-calorie diet may prevent weight loss and malnutrition.
Foods to Eat for an Ulcerative Colitis Diet
During a flare-up, there are some foods that may help manage symptoms. Add these to your diet to minimize discomfort:
1. Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 contributes to diverse and healthy gut bacteria. Fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines are great sources of omega-3s. Non-animal sources include flaxseeds and walnuts, however for some people whole seeds and nuts can worsen symptoms. Grinding up nuts may help reduce the risk.
2. Foods High in Protein
Ulcerative colitis prevents protein absorption during flare-ups. The best protein sources to add to a colitis diet are lean meat, poultry, and eggs. Add soy-based proteins, legumes, and whole grains if you want to avoid animal products.
3. Fermented Foods High in Probiotics
Probiotics are a type of good bacteria and fungi that aid digestion and are essential to overall gut health. Choose fermented foods with low-sugar content. These include natural yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha or add a probiotic supplement to the diet.
Avocados are high in healthy fats and protein. They contain mostly water making them easy to digest while replacing nutrients and calories lost during a colitis flare-up.
Any variety of squash is a great addition to include in an ulcerative colitis diet. They contain important nutrients such as Vitamin C and beta carotene, along with fiber. Cooked squash is better tolerated than raw squash.
6. Juice, Smoothies and Other Fluids
Colitis causes diarrhea which can lead to dehydration. Juices and smoothies are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. People with ulcerative colitis find juiced vegetables easier to tolerate than vegetables in their whole form.
RELATED: Top 11 Foods That Feed The Good Bacteria and Fungi In Your Microbiome
Foods to Avoid for a UC Diet
Food triggers for people with ulcerative colitis vary widely. It is best to keep a food journal to identify which foods cause a colitis flare-up. The most common triggers include:
1. Foods That Cause Inflammation
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory disease and certain foods increase inflammation. It’s best to avoid alcohol, sugar, processed and fatty meat, and gluten.
2. Foods High in Fiber
Fiber increases bowel movements, gas, and abdominal cramping. Foods high in fiber include dried beans and legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Some vegetables cause colitis flare-ups when eaten raw and might be easier to digest if steamed.
Lactose-intolerant individuals should avoid all dairy products. Dairy products can cause abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
4. Spicy Food, Sauces, and Pepper
Spicy foods irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines as they digest. This can lead to gas, bloating, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Avoid chili peppers, curry spice blends or any strong spice you’re not used to.
5. Foods Containing Sulfur or Sulfur-Compounds
Sulfur is a mineral naturally found in some foods while sulfur compounds are used as preservative and food enhancers. These foods produce more gas which can lead to discomfort. It is found in many foods such as cruciferous vegetables, dried apples and apricots, raisins, prunes, wine, beer and cheese.
6. Drinks to Avoid
Carbonated drinks like soda and beer can irritate the digestive tract. Avoid caffeine found in coffee, tea and energy drinks. It acts as a stimulant which can increase bowel movements. Drinks containing sugar or artificial sweeteners can also worsen symptoms.
It is important to find your specific triggers to customize a diet that works for you. Your doctor and dietitian can help you develop a plan to reduce the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Do you know other foods to include or exclude from an ulcerative colitis diet? Share with us in the comments below!