However, if you have been diagnosed with this common form of inflammatory bowel disease, you should know that what you eat can have an impact on the severity of your symptoms. Some foods may trigger or worsen them, while others can help soothe the digestive tract, decreasing symptoms and the frequency of disease flares. Here we’ll discuss how to formulate a soothing ulcerative colitis diet that may help you better manage your symptoms.
Finding the Right Ulcerative Colitis Diet for You
There is no standard diet for ulcerative colitis. For this reason, formulating a diet to help manage your symptoms is a very individualized process.
The first step in that process is to identify your personal dietary needs in terms of which foods may cause or worsen symptoms and which your digestive system tolerates well, giving you some symptom relief. To help you do that, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America recommends keeping a food diary1—recording everything you eat and drink and how you feel afterwards.
While what constitutes a good UC diet will be different for each person with UC, there are some dietary changes that have proven helpful for many, especially when symptoms flare. Among these are:
- Limit sugary and fatty foods: High intake of sugars and fats can increase inflammation throughout the body2, and inflammation is a key factor in triggering UC symptoms.
- Up your intake of Omega-3 essential fatty acids: These healthy fats, found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines fight inflammation, which may help soothe UC symptoms.
- Switch to cooked vegetables: Vegetables are very necessary in your ulcerative colitis diet, since the contain antioxidants and other essential nutrients that promote health. However, steamed or boiled vegetables are easier on an inflamed digestive tract than raw ones.
- Ease up on high-fiber foods: Too much fiber can irritate the digestive tract and increase stool production, so limiting it when symptoms are present can give your colon the break it needs to heal and recover.
- Try smaller, more frequent meals: According to UCSF Medical Center, many UC patients find smaller meals easier to tolerate, which often leads to better overall nutrition.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine: Both irritate the lining of the digestive tract, which can trigger an increase in bowel symptoms.
- Add live culture yogurt to your diet: This food contains probiotics, which are beneficial to the digestive system and can, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, aid the recovery of the intestine, decreasing symptoms. However, this may not be a good option for UC patients who are also lactose intolerant.
- Consider liquid meal replacements: These products can be a great way to increase your intake of vital nutrients and are easy on the digestive system. However, if you are lactose intolerant, read labels carefully, since many contain milk or milk proteins.
- Drink plenty of water: The symptoms of UC—especially diarrhea—can lead to dehydration, so drinking plenty of water is an essential component of a healthy diet plan.
While these suggested changes can offer a good starting point to a soothing ulcerative colitis diet, they are certainly not an all-inclusive list, and some foods that are listed as well-tolerated by most may not be right for you. Unfortunately, finding the right diet plan to best control symptoms is largely a process of trial and error. It is also a process that must include help and input of your doctor, since maintaining well-balanced nutrition is essential to successful management of ulcerative colitis symptoms, as well as the prevention of its potential complications.
1 Available at: http://www.ccfa.org/living-with-crohns-colitis/. [Accessed April 21, 2015].
2 Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/inflammation#reference27. [Accessed April 21, 2015].