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Ulcerative Colitis Diet: Here’s What You Can and Can’t Eat If You Have This Disease

Story at-a-glance

  • It’s important to note that every ulcerative colitis patient has different food intolerances. One may be intolerant to milk while another is sensitive to high-fiber food
  • Lactose intolerance is a common problem among people with IBD. If you’re one of them, then you should avoid dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter and other milk-based foods

Ulcerative colitis may not be caused by the foods you eat, but there’s a high chance that the occurrence and frequency of its flare-ups are influenced by your diet.1 Keep in mind that the foods you consume not only affect your gut, but also contribute to your overall wellbeing, so it’s always a good idea to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.

There’s no single diet for preventing ulcerative colitis since the recommended foods may vary from one person to another. Your dietary needs may also change over time, so consult your physician to develop a flexible diet plan that works best for you.

Foods to Avoid With Ulcerative Colitis

Numerous studies have shown that the occurrence and relapse rate of ulcerative colitis are closely associated with diet.2,3 This is exactly why you have to monitor what you’re eating. Reducing your intake of the following foods may help lower the risk of an ulcerative colitis flare-up:4,5,6

High-fiber foods

High-fiber foods can be hard to digest, and may cause bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea for some ulcerative colitis patients.

It’s best to moderate your intake of fruits and vegetables with insoluble fiber, such as broccoli and celery, and to avoid whole grains.

Processed foods

Processed foods contain refined carbohydrates, gluten and excessive amounts of sugar, which may promote overgrowth of yeast in the intestine and trigger ulcerative colitis.7

Greasy and fatty foods

The grease and added trans fat from fried and fatty foods can wreak havoc on your digestive process and cause diarrhea.8

Carbonated, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks

Skip coffee, soda and alcoholic drinks, as studies have shown that these types of beverage may aggravate the symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs).9,10,11

Seeds and nuts

Although certain types of seeds and nuts are beneficial for healthy people, these may be hard to digest for those with IBD.

Dairy products

Lactose intolerance is a common problem among people with IBD. If you’re one of them, then you should avoid dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter and other milk-based foods.12

Spicy foods

Spicy foods may aggravate the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Limit your intake of chilies, chili powder, paprika, peppers and other foods that contain capsaicin.13


It’s important to note that every ulcerative colitis patient has different food intolerances. One may be intolerant to milk while another is sensitive to high-fiber food. You may need to try different foods before you find out which ones are best-tolerated by your body, and which are not suitable for you.

Best Foods to Eat When You Have Ulcerative Colitis

The diet plan for ulcerative colitis usually consists of low-fiber and low-residue foods since they’re easier to digest. This effectively reduces the risk of ulcerative colitis symptoms, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain.14 In addition, make sure that you’re eating foods that are also rich in the following nutrients:

Other anti-inflammatory foods that may help alleviate ulcerative colitis flare-ups include turmeric, cloves, ginger and rosemary. You should also consider taking dietary supplements to balance your nutritional needs, especially if you’re planning to cut a few nutritious foods from your eating plan. Calcium, vitamin D3 and folic acid supplements are some of the recommended supplements for IBD patients.19

Other Helpful Dietary Tips

In addition to making a few adjustments to your diet, you should also eat smaller meals a few times per days instead of eating three large ones — doing this reduces the strain on your stomach. Keeping a food diary also makes it easier to track the effects of certain foods on your body.

MORE ABOUT ULCERATIVE COLITIS

Ulcerative Colitis: Introduction

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

Ulcerative Colitis Causes

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment

Ulcerative Colitis Prevention

Ulcerative Colitis Diet

Ulcerative Colitis FAQ

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Sources and References

  • 1, 2 Nutrition Journal, 2005; 4:7 doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-4-7
  • 3 World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2010 Mar 28; 16(12): 1442–1448, doi: 10.3748/wjg.v16.i12.1442
  • 4 Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, Colitis Treatment Options
  • 5 WebMD, Creating an Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan
  • 6 Health, 14 Foods to Avoid If You Have Ulcerative Colitis
  • 7, 19 IBD Relief, Processed foods and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • 8 Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, Diet, Nutrition and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
  • 9 Nutrition Journal, 2005; 4:7 doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-4-7
  • 10 Healthline, Ulcerative Colitis and Alcohol
  • 11 Everyday Health, 10 Common Mistakes That Can Make Ulcerative Colitis Worse
  • 12 Cleveland Clinic, Lactose Intolerance
  • 13 IBD Relief, Spicy food and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • 14 Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, Diet and IBD
  • 15 Vitals NBC News, Probiotics Do Ease Gut Problems, Several Studies Show
  • 16 Harvard Health Publications, Foods that Fight Inflammation
  • 17 Crohn’s & Colitis UK, Research study: Vitamin D and IBD
  • 18 WebMD, Top Foods for Calcium and Vitamin D
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