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Ulcerative Colitis Health Center

Ulcerative Colitis: Starting a Food Diary

Keeping a diary of food and symptoms may help you expand your menu.
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Keeping an Ulcerative Colitis Diary: 5 Tips for Top Results

Whatever approach you choose, these strategies are worth remembering:

•         Write down everything you eat. A food-and-symptom diary only works if you record everything. The more accurate your inventory, the more reliable the insights you'll get. Your dietitian may also want to review your food diary to make sure you're eating a well-balanced diet that provides all the nutrients you need, so an accurate record is crucial.

•         Record amounts and how foods are prepared. Some people are bothered by large servings of chocolate but untroubled by a bite-sized piece. Fried chicken may exacerbate symptoms while grilled chicken goes down fine. Write down not just what you ate but how much and how it was prepared.

•         Keep track of your ulcerative colitis symptoms. Some people use a scale of 1 to 10 to describe how they're feeling. Others prefer written notes. Use whatever system helps you be as accurate as possible.

•         Don't be afraid to experiment. While keeping a food-and-symptom diary, try small amounts of foods that you tend to avoid for fear they'll cause problems. That way you can test whether they really do spell trouble for you. If a large serving of something bothers you, try cutting the serving size in half. Remember that your goal is to eat as wide a variety of foods as you can.

•         Stick with your diary for at least three weeks. You'll need that much time to observe patterns. Remember, too, that you can always go back to keeping a food-and-symptom diary if you introduce new foods to your diet.

What Will a Diary Tell You?

In some cases, drawing conclusions from your diary can be straightforward. "If a certain food always seems to give you problems afterwards, you know to avoid it," says Walter J. Coyle, MD, director of the gastrointestinal program at Scripps Clinic Medical Center In La Jolla, Calif.

Often the patterns aren't quite so simple. Meals, after all, are made up of many different foods, in different preparations and different amounts. The amount of time it takes food to reach the large intestines, where ulcerative colitis is focused, also varies for different foods. Pinpointing the real problem may take trial and error.

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