You want to do your best to ensure that you and your baby get the nutrition you need. Ulcerative colitis (UC) can make it an extra challenge, though.
Symptoms like bloody stools, diarrhea, and stomach cramps can put a serious damper on your appetite -- especially if you're also dealing with morning sickness or heartburn. Foods that are usually good for moms-to-be, like milk or fresh vegetables, may trigger flares.
Whenever Serena Ehrlich goes someplace new, she scouts out the location of the bathroom. That's because Ehrlich, 38, a Los Angeles-based salesperson for a commercial wire service, has ulcerative colitis. She developed the disease 12 years ago and has been in remission for the past three. Still, the old habit lingers. "Everyone who has ulcerative colitis will tell you that when you walk into a bookstore, a shop, or a restaurant, that's the one thing you want to know first. It's our rule of thumb."
The good news is that some simple solutions can help you eat well.
To start, talk to your UC doctor or OB-GYN about working with a dietitian who can guide you on healthy choices. Look for one who specializes in working with people who have long-lasting illnesses. The USDA also offers pregnancy nutrition information as part of its Choose My Plate campaign.
Stick to the Basics
Because UC food issues differ from person to person, the best thing you can do is eat a balanced diet. You should:
Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables.
Make half the grains you eat whole grains.
Trade high-fat dairy, such as whole milk, for fat-free or low-fat.
Lower the amount of salt in your diet.
Swap sugary sodas for water.
Your pregnancy doesn't change the basic rules for eating with UC. Avoid greasy, fried, high-sugar, and spicy foods. Stay away from nuts, popcorn, and corn hulls, because they can make swelling worse.
Diarrhea can cause dehydration and make you feel weak, so drink plenty of water.
Sometimes five or six small meals a day are easier to handle than three big meals. This habit also helps with pregnancy nausea and heartburn.
Fruits and vegetables are good for you and your baby. If fiber makes your symptoms worse, don't give up on these food groups yet.
Steam or bake vegetables and fruit instead of eating them raw. Steer clear of high-fiber foods including broccoli, cauliflower, and raw apples. Choose antioxidant-rich produce, such as blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers.
How to Get Calcium
Some people can't digest lactose, the sugar in milk. That's true even for people who don't have an inflammatory bowel disease. But because the symptoms of lactose intolerance look a lot like some symptoms of UC, it may be hard to tell if milk is causing the problem. Your doctor can test you to see if you're lactose intolerant.