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.
2Ditch Unhealthy Fats for a Happier Digestive Tract
A study published in May 2014 in the journal Gut showed that women who ate a diet high in trans fats, such as the hydrogenated oils found in processed foods, had a higher risk of ulcerative colitis. In contrast, those who ate more omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, had a lower risk of UC.
Dr. Dassopoulos recommends limiting unhealthy fats such as trans fats and saturated fats found in red meat for overall health. “My advice to people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is to follow a healthy Mediterranean diet and limit red meat,” Dassopoulos says.