Foods don’t cause UC, but some can trigger flares.As you avoid those, it’s also important to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. It pays to know what foods you can turn to during a flare and which ones make you feel your best.
How to keep it all straight? Make a diet plan so you can manage your condition more easily.
Track the Good and the Bad
There’s no single diet that will help everyone with UC. The condition also changes over time, so your plan will need to be flexible, too. The key is to find what works for you.
To stay organized, keep a food diary. Use a small notebook to write down what you eat and drink and how it makes you feel, both good and bad. It takes time and patience, but it will help you track your condition and fine-tune your diet plan.
Remember the basics of healthy eating: a well-balanced diet is high in protein, whole grains, and fresh produce. It can include meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products (if you’re not lactose intolerant), breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats like olive and canola oils.
You might not be able to eat everything in those groups, but get what you can. Note any prep tweaks that make it easier to eat some foods, like steaming veggies or switching to low-fat dairy.
Some people follow a low-residue diet or low-fiber diet every so often, getting about 10-15 grams of fiber a day. That can help you go to the bathroom less often.
Some items are common troublemakers for people with UC, including:
- carbonated drinks
- dairy products, if you’re lactose intolerant
- dried beans, peas, and legumes
- dried fruits
- foods that have sulfur or sulfate
- foods high in fiber
- nuts, crunchy nut butters
- products that have sorbitol (sugar-free gum and candies)
- raw fruits and vegetables
- refined sugar
- spicy foods
What Else Helps?
Your doctor and a dietitian are great resources when you’re making a UC diet plan. Keep them in the loop on how you’re feeling and what you’re eating. They can guide you to healthy choices and make sure you're getting the nutrition you need.
If you can't eat a balanced diet, you might need to take supplements like calcium, folic acid, and vitamin B12. Ask your doctor if you need to include these in your plan.
Your body may do better with smaller meals throughout the day instead of three big ones. When you make your diet plan, think about foods that you can carry with you for healthy snacks.
Foods That May Fight UC
New research shows that certain nutrients may help fight the irritation and swelling in your gut caused by UC. Researchers have studied how linoleic acid, found in foods such as walnuts, olive oil, egg yolks, and coconut oil, affects people with the condition. Although everyone needs this "good" fat, there is some evidence it may play a role in inflammation if you get too much.
Other studies have found that an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) may fight inflammation. It blocks certain chemicals in your body called leukotrienes. Fish oil is a good source of EPA. In some tests, people benefited from very high doses of it. Many, though, didn’t like the fishy taste.
Some scientific trials also found that yogurt with "good” bacteria, called probiotics, relieved inflammation. Scientists are still studying how these germs may help people with UC and similar conditions.