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Ulcerative Colitis Diet Tips and Mistakes

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet for IBD

Food doesn't cause ulcerative colitis (UC), but UC 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 such as UC 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

Ulcerative colitis flares can wear you out. One reason may be anemia, a low red-blood-cell count. Bleeding ulcers and bloody diarrhea can cause anemia. To fight it, boost your blood iron levels. See if you can handle iron- and folate-rich foods including spinach and raisins. Egg yolks and artichokes are other options that may be easier on your stomach.

Drink Fluids for Ulcerative Colitis

Smoothies and meal-replacement drinks can be a good way to get nutrition when you can't handle solids. They can also easily 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. Being dehydrated affects your colon's ability to absorb water and salts.

Look for Dairy Options

If dairy makes your symptoms worse, you may be lactose intolerant. First, try dairy that's 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: Make sure you get plenty of bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D. Inflammatory bowel disease 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. Probiotics come in liquid or pill supplements, or in foods including yogurt. Some experts say they can be especially helpful if the good bacteria naturally found in your gut is wiped out by antibiotics or diarrhea.

Trouble With High-Fiber Foods?

If fiber bothers you during flares, avoid high-fiber foods. 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 help with discomfort. But it won't help lower inflammation. Peeling fruits and veggies is another way to cut fiber.

Cook Gassy Foods

Having a hard time figuring out what foods may be worsening your cramping, diarrhea, and gas? Take a look at gassy foods. Broccoli, cauliflower, and beans are known to cause gas and be hard to digest. But before killing them from your diet, try them well-cooked. That may solve the problem.

Eat Small Meals to Help With Cramping

Cramping is a common ulcerative colitis problem. Try eating five to six small meals. Or eat three smaller meals, plus two to three snacks. Giving your digestive system smaller amounts to work with can prevent cramping and provide your body with 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 may make you feel bad. Find suspect foods? Try avoiding 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 ulcerative colitis can limit the foods you can eat, be open to ideas. Foods like pizza may seem unhealthy. But look at a food's whole nutritional value. Foods 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. This 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 ulcerative colitis. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you find foods that are easy on your digestion 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 the nutrition you need.

Living With Ulcerative Colitis

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on November 25, 2013

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