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 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 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.
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
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:
- Probiotics: Probiotics help regulate the amount of good and bad bacteria in your stomach, effectively alleviating the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.15 Some of the best sources of probiotics include fermented foods and homemade bone broth.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect, which can help alleviate intestinal inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis. The best sources of omega-3 fatty acid are wild Alaskan salmon and krill oil. Before increasing your intake of omega-3, talk to your doctor first since it may cause bleeding problems if taken in excessive amounts.
- Phytochemicals: Studies suggest that phytochemicals may help lessen the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Some of the foods that contain phytochemicals include apples, raspberries, grapes and olive oil.16
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D reduces the risk of ulcerative colitis flare-ups by boosting the immune system.17 You can get this from wild Alaskan salmon and foods that are fortified with vitamin D,18 but remember that sun exposure is still the best source of this nutrient.
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.