If you have ulcerative colitis (UC), you may wonder what it means for your diet. Food is a central part of living, provides your body with nutrition, and brings people together.
If you have UC, eating a well-balanced diet is essential. You need to eat enough foods from all of the food groups. These groups include fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins. You should also include some healthy fats in your diet, such as olive oil.
Food and UC have a strong connection. The foods you eat don’t cause you to develop UC, but they can affect your UC symptoms.
When your symptoms are flaring up, certain foods may aggravate them. When your symptoms are in remission, you may be able to return to your normal diet and enjoy foods that you typically avoid during a flare. It’s important to learn which foods you should eat and avoid. This may help you eat well, enjoy your meals, and feel better.
There’s no single diet plan that works for everyone with UC. You need to be mindful of the effects that different foods have on your body.
It’s also important to remember that things can change. You may start having problems with foods you could tolerate before, or you may discover that you can now eat foods that were once problematic.
Before you received a diagnosis of UC, you may have eaten two or three large meals per day. That’s a lot of work for your intestines to handle.
Instead of eating a few large meals, try eating five or six smaller meals spaced evenly throughout the day. This will give your bowels time to digest the food you eat. It may help reduce your symptoms.
Over time, UC can make it hard for your body to absorb calories and nutrients from your food. This can lead to malnutrition and weight loss, especially when your symptoms flare up.
If a flare typically causes you to lose weight, you may need to increase your calorie intake. This can help you get the energy your body needs. You may also need to take multivitamins or carefully monitor the nutrient level of the foods you eat. This will help you get enough calories, vitamins, and minerals to meet your body’s daily needs.
Some medications used to treat UC can cause side effects if you eat too much sodium. For example, they may cause swelling and bloating.
If you’re using corticosteroid drugs to treat UC, your doctor or dietitian may encourage you to eat a low-salt diet to help prevent water retention. They may also recommend a low-fat diet, especially during a flare. When your symptoms flare up, greasy, fattening foods can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Avoiding large doses of fat may reduce your risk of complications.
Many people with UC also have lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain when you eat dairy. If you’re lactose intolerant, you should avoid milk and other dairy products.
If you have to eat foods that contain dairy or you’d prefer not to avoid them, take a lactase enzyme product when you eat them. This can help your body break down the milk sugar, or lactose, they contain without causing unwanted side effects. Talk with your doctor to learn if these products might be right for you.
Fiber-rich foods, such as grains, vegetables, and fruit, are an important part of a balanced diet, but eating too much fiber can aggravate the bowels and make symptoms worse for some people with UC. Fiber adds bulk to your stool, which can increase the frequency of your bowel movements.
Ask your doctor how much fiber you should get in your diet. Changing how you prepare fruits and vegetables may also make them easier to digest. Instead of eating them raw, try boiling, steaming, or baking them.
The best way to learn how different foods affect you is to keep a food diary. Each day, record your meals, snacks, and everything you drink. Then, record any symptoms that follow.
Take your food diary to appointments with your doctor or dietitian. Talk about possible connections between the foods you eat and the symptoms you experience. They may encourage you to eliminate foods that seem to trigger symptoms. Over time, you can learn which foods make your UC symptoms worse and avoid them altogether.
If you have UC, informed dietary choices can make a big difference. Nutrition takes on special importance, especially since the disease can make it harder for your body to absorb calorie and nutrients. Choosing nutrient-rich foods is important.
Avoiding trigger foods is also key. They can make your symptoms worse. They can even keep your body from properly absorbing calories and nutrients from the foods you eat.
New research in mice shows that emulsifiers in processed foods like lecithin, polysorbate, and gums, weaken the intestinal mucous lining and negatively alter gut bacteria. This can potentially lead to more intestinal inflammation, flare-ups, and symptoms. More research is necessary to confirm these findings in humans, but the research findings are compelling enough for those with inflammatory bowel disease to consider reducing how much processed foods they eat.
For these reasons and more, a well-balanced diet is important. It can help minimize your symptoms and lower your risk of complications from UC.