UC is not caused by your diet. However, specific foods can increase risk of flare-ups and/or make symptoms worse when those flare-ups do occur. While trigger foods vary from person to person, there are some foods that are problematic for a many people living with UC. Here, we’ll discuss 10 foods that many may need to avoid to reduce colitis symptoms.
- Milk and milk products: Dairy products can stimulate bowel contractions, worsening UC symptoms such as abdominal pain and cramping. In UC sufferers who are also lactose intolerant, milk and other dairy products can dramatically worsen symptoms, including diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain and gas.
- Foods and beverages containing caffeine: Caffeine stimulates bowel contractions, increasing abdominal discomfort in many colitis sufferers. It is also acts as a diuretic, causing water loss – already a problem for those who suffer frequent diarrhea – and can trigger or worsen diarrhea in people with UC.
- Fatty or fried foods: Foods high in fats—especially saturated and trans fats—can trigger or worsen diarrhea in colitis patients. The exception to that rule for many is fatty fish, including salmon, tuna and mackerel, which contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are generally well tolerated and may even help decrease inflammation.
- Carbonated beverages: The fizz in these beverages—including sodas, some energy drinks and beer—is created by carbonic acid, which can contribute to the abdominal pain and discomfort experienced with UC.
- Whole grains: Whole grains include brown rice, as well as cereals, breads, pastas and other products made with whole wheat or whole grain flours. Unlike white rice and cereals, pasta and baked goods made from more thoroughly processed enriched white flour, whole grain foods contain the germ and bran of the grains, which can make UC symptoms worse.
- Legumes: These include lentils, beans and peas. Legumes are high in fiber and contain indigestible sugars, both of which can increase gas, bloating and other UC symptoms.
- Nuts and seeds: The fiber in nuts and seeds, either raw or cooked, is very hard to digest, frequently triggering or worsening symptoms in UC patients.
- Many fruits: Fruits that are raw, dried, or have seeds that cannot be removed, like most berries, have high fiber content that can trigger or worsen symptoms.
- Some vegetables: Vegetables that are raw or undercooked are best avoided, as are vegetables that are difficult to digest, such as corn. Soft-cooked vegetables are generally fine for UC sufferers, so long as they are peeled and have no seeds. However, the exception are those from the cabbage family—including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts—which can cause gas, bloating, and cramping.
- Some meats: Tough or fatty meats are best avoided to minimize symptoms, as are smoked or cured meats, including bacon and deli meats.
While limiting or eliminating these foods will not cure UC, it can help you better control the disease by reducing symptoms and the frequency and duration of troublesome flare-ups. However, it is important to work with your health care provider if you’ll be making changes to your daily diet, since good, balanced nutrition is also very important in terms of maintaining health and well-being with inflammatory bowel disease.