Some types of food, such as lean proteins, peeled fruits, and cooked vegetables, may help reduce ulcerative colitis symptoms. High fiber, highly processed, and spicy foods may trigger symptoms.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects your digestive tract.

Eating certain foods may cause your symptoms to flare up, while other foods may help you stay in remission. Finding the right diet plan may take some time. It’s usually a process of elimination.

However, finding your trigger foods and those that make you feel good can help you better manage your condition.

Keep reading to learn more about food preparation, diets, and recommended foods to eat and avoid when you have UC.

Finding the foods that work best for you can sometimes feel tough when you’re living with UC. But some tips may help you choose foods that can minimize your symptom flare-ups.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation offers the following tips to help with your food planning:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Symptoms such as diarrhea can increase dehydration.
  • Prepare your meals in advance.
  • Have easy meals and snacks on hand for when you don’t feel like cooking bigger meals.
  • Have foods that don’t trigger flare-ups available in your kitchen.
  • Avoid frying food. Instead, consider broiling, grilling, steaming, baking, or poaching.
  • Use a food journal to track the foods you eat and any digestive symptoms you experience throughout the day. This could help you identify personal trigger foods to avoid.

Culture and diet

You may find that some traditional and cultural foods trigger symptoms of UC. This may be frustrating, but planning ahead and talking with family members can help you enjoy these foods without worrying about flare-ups.

For example, red meat is a common UC trigger. Instead of completely avoiding dishes that include red meat, you can try replacing it with another protein source, such as chicken. Similarly, if hot spices make your symptoms worse, you might want to try using less of a spice or using a milder spice.

Sticking to a certain diet may help prolong remission and limit UC flare-ups.

Still, UC affects everyone differently. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet for UC, and some foods included in any given diet may still trigger your symptoms.

Resist the urge to follow diets recommended to you by friends, family, or people on the internet. Instead, speak with a health professional, such as a registered dietitian, about your condition. They can help you develop a nutrition plan that’s right for you.

Low FODMAP diet

The low FODMAP diet focuses on cutting back on sugars and carbohydrates that may not be absorbed well in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

The results of a small 2020 study suggest that a low FODMAP diet may decrease the severity of IBD symptoms and provide gut relief.

However, the diet doesn’t decrease GI inflammation or damage. It’s intended for only short-term use to help reduce symptoms.

Paleo diet

The paleo diet focuses on eating foods similar to a hunter-gatherer diet. This means eating lean meats, fish, and fruits while limiting whole grains, dairy, refined sugar, and starchy vegetables.

A 2017 study found that in combination with medical therapy, an autoimmune protocol diet (an extension of the paleo diet) helped 11 out of 15 participants enter remission by week 6 of the study.

However, given the limited number of participants, more research is needed to support the benefits of a paleo diet.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet includes nutritious foods such as fish, fruits, vegetables, and olive oil. Red meat is included in only small amounts. Red wine is also allowed in moderate amounts.

The authors of a 2021 review suggest that a Mediterranean diet may help decrease disease activity in people with inflammatory conditions such as IBD. Similarly, a 2021 study found that a Mediterranean diet may help people with IBD go into remission.

However, more research is needed to investigate the benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet for UC.

Low fiber diet

A low fiber diet used to be called a low residue diet. “Residue” refers to foods your body can’t digest well that end up in your stool. These may include foods high in fiber, which could irritate your stomach lining and GI tract.

This diet was removed from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Care Manual because there wasn’t enough evidence to support its benefits.

However, low fiber diets may still be beneficial for some people with UC because they allow the digestive tract to rest. Speak with a healthcare professional before trying a low fiber diet.

Gluten-free diet

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. It’s a common trigger food for people with UC. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 3 people with IBD also have a diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

A gluten-free diet may help improve your symptoms. In a 2014 study, just over 65% of participants who ate a gluten-free diet experienced an improvement in IBD symptoms.

However, the International Organization for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases says there isn’t enough evidence to recommend restricting wheat or gluten.

Therefore, more research is needed to establish a clear consensus on the role of a gluten-free diet in managing UC.

When living with UC, you might restrict the types of foods you eat to help relieve or prevent flare-ups. Although this may be beneficial in the short term, cutting out too many foods may lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Foods that you may be able to consume with UC include:

  • Low fiber fruits such as bananas, honeydew melon, cooked or peeled fruits, avocado, and mango
  • Non-cruciferous vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and carrots
  • Refined grain foods such as white pasta, white rice, oatmeal, and certain breads
  • Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods such as salmon, mackerel, and walnuts
  • Low fat protein sources such as fish, chicken, lamb, turkey, and eggs

During a flare-up, you may want to reduce your consumption of all foods that trigger your symptoms.

However, during remission, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Slowly reintroducing some foods, such as those high in fiber, may even help you maintain remission.

Remember to track your food intake and any related symptoms in a food journal. This can help you identify any foods that may be causing problems.

Some types of food may irritate your GI tract and trigger UC symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends avoiding the following foods, especially if you’re experiencing a flare-up:

  • Insoluble fibers, which are found in raw cruciferous vegetables and the skins and peels of fruits
  • High fiber foods such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
  • Some meats, including red meat and processed meats
  • Lactose products such as cow’s milk, cheese, and ice cream
  • Sugar alcohols, which might be found in sugar-free products such as chewing gums and mints
  • Acidic fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, grapes, and tomatoes
  • High fat foods such as butter, creams, and fried and highly processed foods
  • Certain beverages such as alcohol, soda, coffee, and tea

Can you eat pizza with ulcerative colitis?

Pizza dough usually contains gluten, and cheeses contain lactose. These foods may trigger your UC symptoms. But gluten-free dough and lactose-free cheeses can be great alternatives so that you can enjoy pizza.

Is peanut butter good for ulcerative colitis?

Peanut butter is rich in protein and healthy fats. If you have UC, it’s best to choose smooth peanut butter with no added sugar, as whole nuts and sugar can trigger symptoms.

UC is a long-term disease that can cause inflammation in your bowel as well as digestion issues.

Some foods may trigger symptoms of UC, so changing your diet could help ease your symptoms and even promote remission.

However, creating a UC diet is not a one-size-fits-all process. Your dietary needs and restrictions will change as your symptoms come and go, and trigger foods can be different for each person.

Speak with a healthcare professional if you need to change your diet. They can help you develop a plan.

Read this article in Spanish.