Has ulcerative colitis made you hesitant to eat for fear of causing painful symptoms? If you know for sure what foods make you feel worse, it’ll be easier to live with the disease. In a study of 78 people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) published in June 2016 in Nutrition Journal, 68 of those interviewed said that their diet affected their IBD. Seventy-two percent of the people improved their symptoms by restricting foods such as dairy products, processed meats, fast food, and alcohol.
Doctors and nutritionists recommend that people who are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) change their dietary intake to ensure that they are consuming much-needed nutrients without exacerbating symptoms.
What’s the best way to identify what not to eat if you have UC? According to a study published in January 2016 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, up to 70 percent of people with IBD have tried an elimination diet, where they remove various foods from their diet to see if symptoms abate. Elimination diets are a good way to identify common food triggers.
To get started on one, record all the food you eat during the day in a diary or journal along with any symptoms you experience. You can do this with pen and paper or with an online tools or app such as GI Monitor.
There are also a number of special diets that people with UC may want to try, although dietary recommendations will vary from person to person. For example, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which is designed especially to control IBD symptoms, focuses on vegetables, fruits, meats, and nuts and eliminates grains, dairy, processed foods, and all sugars but honey. Another is the low-residue or low-fiber diet, which restricts foods that increase bowel activity — like prune juice, bran cereals, legumes, and leafy vegetables — and allows mostly white rice, white bread, well-cooked vegetables, fish, poultry, and dairy products.
Be sure to speak with your doctor or a dietitian before starting any special diet for UC. If you start removing particular foods from your diet, you may develop nutritional deficiencies. Your doctor or nutritionist can test your nutrient levels and help you create a meal plan that’s right for you.
That said, there are certain foods that are known triggers for UC symptoms. Speak to your doctor to determine the best way to eliminate these foods to ensure that you’re still meeting all your nutritional needs.
1Dairy Is a Common Trigger Food for People With Ulcerative Colitis
Lactose intolerance is a common issue affecting the general population, as well as people with ulcerative colitis, says Themistocles Dassopoulos, MD, the director of the Baylor Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dallas. Lactose intolerance prevents you from properly digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products, because the small intestine lacks the digestive enzyme called lactase. Lactose intolerance doesn’t directly affect the large intestine or colon, but it can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea that can be mistaken for UC. Avoid dairy products or add lactase supplements to reduce these symptoms.