There's no diet for ulcerative colitis. What you eat doesn't cause or cure UC. But eating a diet rich in nutrients may help you spend more time in remission and live a healthier life.
Malnutrition caused by ulcerative colitis is rare because vitamins, minerals, and proteins are absorbed in the small intestine, which isn't affected by UC. Still, eating a well-balanced diet with UC can be tricky.
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."
Many people with UC find certain foods don't agree with them. And loss of appetite or fear of eating can cause you to lose weight or miss out on nutrients.
The best time to think about nutrition is when you're not having a flare.
The Best Diet for Ulcerative Colitis?
Most experts say that people with UC should just try to eat a well-balanced diet whenever possible. This should include a variety of foods:
Lean meat, fish, and poultry
Low-fat dairy products
Bread, cereal, and whole grains
Fruits and vegetables
Healthy fats such as vegetable oils
Keep a food diary to help you figure out which foods cause problems for you and whether or not you're getting enough nutrients.
If you're losing weight because of your ulcerative colitis, try eating five or six small meals and snacks during the day instead of two or three large meals.
When you have chronic diarrhea, drink plenty of water or other fluids to stay hydrated.
A dietitian can come up with a diet that meets your calorie and nutrient needs. Before you take any dietary supplements, talk to your doctor or dietician.
Avoid High-Fiber Foods?
You don't necessarily have to say good-bye to foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables because you have UC. Besides its nutritional benefits, fiber soaks up excess water and can firm stools.
Even if a high-fiber food seems to aggravate your UC symptoms during a flare-up, it may not when the flare passes. The only way to know if a particular food is a problem for you is to remove it from your diet and then gradually start eating it again.
Aim for 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day. 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 not be getting enough nutrients common in high-fiber foods. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you should take a supplement.