When you’re in the middle of an ulcerative colitis flare-up, you may not even be able to think about nutrition. That’s why it’s so important to think about it when you aren’t.
There's no one ulcerative colitis diet -- what you eat doesn't cause or cure ulcerative colitis. But eating a diet rich in nutrients may help you spend more time in remission and live a healthier life with UC.
Eating a well-balanced diet with UC can be tricky. Malnutrition is rare with ulcerative colitis because vitamins, minerals, and proteins are absorbed in the small intestine, which isn't affected by UC.
But many people with UC may find they can't tolerate certain foods. And loss of appetite or fear of eating can cause them to lose weight or have low levels of nutrients they need.
A dietitian can help you devise the best diet for your calorie and nutrient needs. Keeping a food diary will help you and your dietitian determine which foods cause problems for you and whether or not you’re getting enough nutrients. These strategies may also help.
The Best Diet for Ulcerative Colitis?
There is no "best" diet for ulcerative colitis. Most experts say that people with UC should just try to eat a well-balanced diet when possible. This should include a variety of foods:
- meat, fish, and poultry
- low-fat dairy products
- bread, cereal, and other grains
- fruits and vegetables
- healthy fats such as vegetable oils
Should You Avoid High-Fiber Foods?
You don't necessarily need to say good-bye to high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables because you have UC. And it’s best not to, if you can. Besides its nutritional benefits, fiber soaks up excess water and can firm up stools.
As with other foods, whether or not fiber aggravates your symptoms or helps them tends to be an individual response. The only way to know if a particular food is a problem for you is to eliminate it from your diet and then gradually reintroduce it.
And even if a high-fiber food seems to aggravate UC symptoms during a flare-up, it may not when the flare passes.
Aim for 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, if possible. Steaming, baking, or stewing fruits and vegetables before eating them may be easier on your digestive tract than eating them raw.
If your doctor has recommended a low-fiber diet, you may be at risk of not getting enough nutrients such as vitamin C, which is common in fruits. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you need take a supplement.
Take a Multivitamin
Because ulcerative colitis can make it difficult to always get all the nutrients you need, doctors may recommend taking a multivitamin for extra protection.