You want to do your best to ensure you and your baby are getting the nutrition you need. When you're living with ulcerative colitis, eating right can be an extra challenge.
With UC, sores in your colon and rectum can cause bloody stools, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. That can put a serious damper on your appetite. Especially if you're also dealing with morning sickness or heartburn.
Because UC food issues differ from person to person, the best thing you can do is try to eat a balanced diet. To do that you should:
- Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables
- Make half the grains you eat whole grains
- Trade high-fat dairy, such as whole milk, for fat-free, low-fat, or 1%
- Lower the amount of salt in your diet
- Swap sugary sodas for water
For more help, talk to your UC doctor or OB-GYN about working with a dietitian. Someone who specializes in working with people who have a chronic illness could also be helpful. The USDA also offers pregnancy nutrition information as part of its My Plate campaign.
Stick to the Basics
Your pregnancy doesn't change the basic rules for eating with UC. Avoid greasy, fried, high-sugar, and spicy foods. Stay away from nuts, popcorn, and corn hulls because they can worsen swelling.
Diarrhea can cause dehydration and make you feel weak, so drink plenty of water.
Fruits and vegetables are good for you and your baby. If fiber makes your symptoms worse, don't give up on these food groups yet.
Steam or bake vegetables and fruit instead of eating them raw. Steer clear of high-fiber foods including broccoli, cauliflower, and raw apples. Choose antioxidant-rich produce, such as blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers.
How to Get Calcium
Some people can't digest lactose, the sugar in milk. That's true even of people who don't have UC. But because the symptoms of lactose intolerance look a lot like some symptoms of UC, it may be hard to tell if milk is causing the problem. Your doctor can test you to see if you're lactose intolerant.
Either way, your body needs foods high in calcium, especially during pregnancy. Some options include:
- Yogurt or hard cheeses, which might be easier to digest
- Calcium-fortified juices, other drinks, cereals, and breads
- Tofu, soybeans, black-eyed peas, or canned fish with edible bones (such as sardines or salmon)
- Milk; drink it with a meal or add it to cereal to make it easier on your system.
If you need to be lactose-free, try:
- Lactose-free milk or calcium-fortified soy milk
- Lactase pills or drops
Healthy Fats From Fish
Fish is a great way to get omega-3 fatty acids, which help build your baby's brain and eyes. They may also cut down on UC symptoms and prevent flares. Some fish are high in mercury, but pregnant women can safely eat fish by following these guidelines.
- Have up to 12 ounces a week of low-mercury fish such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, and catfish.
- Don't eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, which tend to be higher in mercury.
- Limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces weekly.