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Slideshow: Ulcerative Colitis Diet Tips and Mistakes

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

Food doesn't cause ulcerative colitis (UC), but the disease can make eating hard. Say spinach makes your symptoms worse -- you may be tempted to stop eating all veggies, all the time. But diarrhea can rob you of important nutrients, and digestive disorders can raise your chances of malnutrition. To nourish your body, eat well-balanced meals. Don't banish entire food groups from your plate.

Fight Anemia and Fatigue With Iron

Flares can wear you out. One reason may be anemia, when your body doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells. Bleeding ulcers and bloody diarrhea can cause anemia. To fight it, eat foods to boost your blood iron levels. The best sources are lean meats and fish. See if you can handle iron- and folate-rich foods like spinach and raisins. Egg yolks and artichokes are other options that may be easier on your stomach.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Smoothies and meal-replacement drinks can be a good way to get nutrition when you can't handle solids. They're also easy ways to add nutrients and calories if you’re having trouble keeping up your weight. Fluids, including water, are also important, because UC raises your chance of dehydration. 

Look for Dairy Options

If dairy makes your symptoms worse, you may be lactose intolerant. First, try foods that are lower in lactose, such as hard cheeses and yogurt. If you need to skip dairy completely, look for options such as almond milk and soy cheeses. Your goal: Get plenty of bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D. Inflammatory bowel diseases can make bone loss more likely.

Probiotics May Help Digestion

Looking for natural help for ulcerative colitis indigestion? Try probiotics. These "good" bacteria may help digestion. You can get them in liquid or pill supplements, or in foods like yogurt. Some experts say they can be especially useful if the helpful germs naturally found in your gut are wiped out by antibiotics or diarrhea.

Trouble With High-Fiber Foods?

If fiber bothers you during flares, avoid foods that have a lot of it. You may want to skip nuts and seeds, whole grains, and raw fruits and vegetables for a short while. They're harder to digest. This is sometimes called a low-residue diet. Some experts say it may ease pain, cramps, and other symptoms. But it won't get rid of inflammation. Peeling fruits and veggies is another way to cut fiber.

Cook Gassy Foods

Broccoli, cauliflower, and beans are known to cause gas, and they can be hard to digest. They may give you diarrhea and cramps, too. But before you clear them from your diet, try them well-cooked. That may solve the problem.

Eat Small Meals to Help With Cramps

Cramping is a common ulcerative colitis problem. To try to stop it, eat five to six small meals a day. Or eat three smaller meals, plus two or three snacks. If you give your digestive system smaller amounts to work with, you can help prevent pain and give your body a steady stream of nutrients.

Keep a Food Journal

Write down what you eat and how you feel from day to day. It can help you spot foods that might make you feel bad. Find suspect items? Try to avoid them. Then add them back into your diet a week at a time to see if you feel any different. Spicy and fatty foods and caffeinated, carbonated drinks are common trouble-makers.

Look for Well-Rounded Foods

Because UC can limit what you can eat, be open to ideas. Foods like pizza may seem unhealthy. But look at an item's whole nutritional quality. Those that have more than one food group -- such as lean protein, low-fat dairy, and vegetables -- can pack a lot of value, if you can tolerate them. That can be especially helpful if you're having trouble keeping on weight.

Nutrition Advice for Ulcerative Colitis

There's no magic diet that's right for everyone with UC. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you find foods that are easy to digest and good for you. These experts can also help you figure out if you're missing out on any key nutrients. If so, they may suggest foods or supplements to help you get what you need.

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 05, 2014

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