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Which foods are causing problems for your UC? That's the million-dollar question. The answer is different for each person.

To help figure out which foods trigger your UC, try an elimination diet. For several weeks, keep a diary of what and when you eat and when you have symptoms. Then look for patterns. Avoid foods that seem to bring on discomfort or a trip to the bathroom. See if your symptoms get better or go away.

You may need to experiment a bit to figure out whether a food truly gives you trouble or whether it just made your symptoms worse during a flare.

Talk to your doctor about what you notice. Your goal should be to continue eating as many foods as you can. The best diet for ulcerative colitis is a well-balanced variety of foods.

Problem Foods

Many people with ulcerative colitis report problems with these foods. You may want to avoid them, or cut back on them, and see if your symptoms get better:

  • High-fiber foods such as bran, nuts, seeds, and popcorn
  • Fatty, greasy foods and sauces
  • Milk products
  • Alcohol

Making Better Choices

Below are common foods that may make UC symptoms worse, along with some safer options. Just because a food is on your problem list doesn't mean you have to give it up. You can switch from full-fat to low-fat dairy, and change your cooking method: choose baking or broiling meats over frying and baking, or stewing vegetables over eating them raw or lightly cooked.

Grain Products

Common problem foods:

  • Whole-grain breads, bagels, rolls, crackers, cereals, and pasta
  • Brown or wild rice

Better choices:

  • Products made from white or refined flour
  • White rice

Vegetables and Fruits

Common problem foods:

  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy greens, including mustard, turnip, and collard greens, and spinach
  • Most raw fruits
  • Dried fruits, including raisins
  • Canned cherries and berries

Better choices:

  • Well-cooked vegetables without seeds
  • Ripe bananas, peeled apples, and melons
  • Soft, canned fruits without added sugar

Meat and Protein

Common problem foods:

  • Fried meats such as sausage and bacon
  • Luncheon meats including bologna and salami
  • Hot dogs
  • Dried beans, peas, and nuts

Better choices:

  • Tender, well-cooked meats and poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs

Milk Products

Common problem foods:

  • Whole milk
  • Half and half
  • Sour cream

Better choices:

  • Buttermilk
  • Evaporated milk
  • Low-fat or skim milk
  • Powdered milk

Other Dairy Products

Common problem foods:

  • Full-fat cheese, ice cream, and frozen custard
  • Yogurt with berries or nuts

Better choices:

  • Low-fat or non-dairy cheese, ice cream, etc.
  • Sherbet
  • Smooth yogurt with live, active cultures and without nuts or berries

Beverages and Sweets

Common problems:

  • Sweet fruit juices, soft drinks, or other drinks made with sugar or corn syrup
  • Drinks with caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Sugarless gums and candies with sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol)

Better choices:

  • Water
  • Decaffeinated coffee, tea, and sugar-free soft drinks
  • Rehydration beverages


Managing Lactose Intolerance

If you're lactose intolerant and can't fully digest the sugar in dairy foods, talk to your doctor about limiting or eliminating dairy foods, eating lactose-free versions of dairy foods such as cheese, and ways to get enough non-dairy calcium. 

Eating After Surgery

After surgery for your UC, your doctor will ask you to stick to a soft, bland diet while you're healing. Gradually, you'll be able to start eating foods with more fiber. Depending on the kind of surgery you have, you might be able to eat anything, even foods that caused pain and diarrhea when your UC was active.