Creating an Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan
If you have ulcerative colitis, you probably know which foods aggravate your condition and you try to avoid them. That's a great start. In addition, some new research indicates that specific nutrients in some foods may help decrease GI inflammation. That can make it easier to self-manage your illness.
What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a disease that affects the large intestine (the colon) and the rectum. This disease causes inflammation of the colon's inner lining and the rectal wall, which becomes red, swollen, and ulcerated.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include cramping, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Some people with ulcerative colitis suffer with poor appetite, fatigue, and anemia. Other people also have joint pain, redness, swelling, and liver problems.
Research suggests that ulcerative colitis may be an autoimmune disease. That means the body may be attacking its own healthy organs and tissues. Contrary to popular belief, neither stress nor specific foods actually cause ulcerative colitis. Yet, as you may have already found out, both stress and certain foods can aggravate GI symptoms.
How Can an Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan Help?
It's important to self-manage ulcerative colitis with healthy lifestyle habits and a nutrient-rich diet. Paying attention to your nutrition is especially important with GI diseases, because diarrhea and bleeding can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and loss of essential nutrients. That can lead to a host of problems such as fatigue, weakness, and anemia.
What Foods Are Included in an Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan?
Eating with ulcerative colitis should be based on a well-balanced diet that's high in protein, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, and good fats. Such a diet will provide you with energy and keep you well. Your diet may include meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products (if you don't have lactose intolerance); breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables; and margarine and oils.
If you are a vegetarian with ulcerative colitis, dairy products and plant proteins -- such as soy products -- can provide the nutritional elements found in meat, fish, and poultry.
What Foods Should I Avoid in an Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan?
According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, diet is not a major factor in the inflammatory process. Some specific foods, however, may affect symptoms of ulcerative colitis and play some role in inflammation.
If you find that certain foods trigger your bowel symptoms, then you may want to avoid these foods to reduce your symptoms and self-manage your illness. For example, some people with ulcerative colitis find that coffee or caffeine exacerbates diarrhea and cramping. Other people complain that raw vegetables or high-fiber foods cause their GI symptoms.
Some people periodically follow a low-residue diet or low-fiber diet, getting about 10-15 grams of fiber a day. That helps reduce the frequency of bowel movements and prolongs intestinal transit time.
Learning to avoid food triggers may give you better control of your disease and allow you greater freedom to enjoy an active life. Despite the fact there is no scientific proof, many people with ulcerative colitis have found that one or more of the following foods can trigger their GI symptoms:
- carbonated beverages
- dairy products, if lactose intolerant
- dried beans, peas, and legumes
- dried fruits, berries, fruits with pulp or seeds
- foods containing sulfur or sulfate
- foods high in fiber, including whole-grain products
- hot sauce, pepper
- nuts, crunchy nut butters
- products containing sorbitol (sugar-free gum and candies)
- raw vegetables
- refined sugar
- spicy foods, sauces