Dietary Changes Can Help Manage Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms
An ulcerative colitis flare-up can include symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, urgent bowel movements and fatigue. So, how can you reduce your chances of this happening? It all comes down to what you eat drink! Certain foods and drinks can make ulcerative colitis worse. So, what foods should you be cautious about? How can they make this digestive disease worse?
The following foods and drinks you may want to approach with caution or avoid consuming at all.
1. High Fiber Foods
You would assume that for a digestive condition high fiber would be a good thing. But in the case of ulcerative colitis, fiber can actually lead to flare-ups. It’s best to avoid whole grains, pasta and products rich in white flour. Instead, opt for a low fiber diet like cooked veggies, meats and easy-to-digest fruits.
2. Dairy Products
Dairy products, like ice cream and milk, can trigger ulcerative colitis symptoms due to high lactose (the sugar found in these foods). Many people with this condition may have lactose intolerance, which means they can’t break down lactose in the intestines. This leads to uncomfortable symptoms such as gas and cramps.
3. Carbonated Drinks
For anyone with a digestive condition or a sensitive stomach, carbonated drinks can pose some serious issues and lead to flare-ups. The carbonation and sugar in these drinks can be very irritating. On top of this, many of them contain caffeine which can further cause inflammation and other symptoms across the digestive tract.
Along with carbonated drinks and high-caffeine drinks, alcohol might also be a no-go, unless you want to experience undesirable digestive symptoms. Wine, beer and mixed drinks can trigger symptoms of ulcerative colitis, leaving you in pain for many days afterwards.
5. Red and Processed Meats
Unfortunately, red meat and processed meats, like deli meats or ground meats, can lead to a worsening of ulcerative colitis symptoms. Most experts recommend people with this condition avoid these foods, and instead opt for protein from eggs or lean meats, like chicken or pork.
6. High Fat Foods
With sensitive digestive systems, high fat diets can pose some issues. With ulcerative colitis, it’s recommended to avoid or lower your intake of high-fat foods, such as butter, fatty meats, coconut and fried or greasy foods. Instead, it’s best to opt for healthy fats that are high in omega-3s like avocado, eggs, or fatty fish (like salmon).
7. Spicy Foods
This likely comes as no surprise! Spicy foods, like hot sauces, pepper or chili, can lead to increased or aggravated symptoms with ulcerative colitis. During flare-ups, it’s essential to steer clear of these. During remission, these might be able to be enjoyed occasionally for some individuals, as long as it’s not too spicy.
What Can You Eat?
With the elimination of the above foods, you might wonder what you can eat without unintentional weight loss. Luckily, there’s plenty of high-nutritious foods to choose from!
With ulcerative colitis, plant-based diets such as the Mediterranean diet may support good health and reduce flare-ups. It may also help to avoid gluten and follow a relatively gluten-free based diet. Additionally, ensuring most of your foods come from whole foods as opposed to processed or pre-packaged food items can go a long way for smoothing out your digestive health.
Often, ulcerative colitis is quite easy to manage. It usually comes down to making dietary adjustments and potentially reducing stress in your life to decrease inflammation in the body.
When making lifestyle changes, try taking small steps forward instead of doing everything all at once. This can make things less overwhelming and much easier to do consistently, and eventually make them a habitual activity or task.
For example, try going alcohol free to start or simply lowering your intake to a drink or two per week. After you’ve accomplished that for a few weeks or months, try removing carbonated drinks and so on. Eventually, you’ll look back and realize you’ve transformed your diet and put your ulcerative colitis in remission (hopefully for good!).
- National Institute of Diabetes and and Digestive and Kidney Issues (Ulcerative Colitis)
- Mayo Clinic (Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them)
- Colorectal Surgical Associates, PC (The Worst Foods For Those With Ulcerative Colitis)
- Medical News Today (Foods to eat and avoid with ulcerative colitis)