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Ulcerative Colitis Health Center

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UC and Nutrition: What Is Your Diet Missing?

Fish and Flaxseed Oils

Fish oil -- found in salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and black cod, as well supplements -- acts as an anti-inflammatory. Though early studies are mixed, fish and flaxseed oils may help fight colon inflammation.

Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics are helpful bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms found in your intestines. You can find them in yogurt and supplements. Some researchers, as well as people with inflammatory bowel disease, think probiotics help ease symptoms.

But only certain probiotics will treat ulcerative colitis. In European studies, the probiotic E. coli Nissle helped prevent UC flares, but it isn't available in the U.S. Other studies are testing different probiotics to help control UC. If you and your doctor decide to try probiotics, you'll need to keep taking enough of the right kind for it to work.

UC and Lactose Intolerance

People with UC often think they have lactose intolerance, which means they can't properly digest the sugar in milk and milk products, because some symptoms are similar. But people with UC are no more likely than people without it to have lactose intolerance. Your doctor can do a simple test to find out.

If you can, keep milk and dairy products in your diet. They are a very good source of calcium and vitamin D, which keep your bones healthy. Using steroids such as prednisone for a long time can thin your bones and make it harder for your body to absorb calcium, raising your risk of osteoporosis.

Most adults need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day; women older than 50 and all people over 70 need 1,200 milligrams. If dairy products cause you discomfort, try eating them in small amounts. Or try a lactase supplement to break down the lactose in dairy products.

If you just can't stomach dairy products, your doctor may want you to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Multivitamins and Supplements

People with UC need to be especially careful about getting enough folate, iron, and potassium.

Folate helps prevent cancer and birth defects, but some 5-ASA medications (including Asacol, Canasa, Colazal, Dipentum, Pentasa, and Rowasa) can make it harder for your body to absorb folate.

Blood loss due to inflammation and ulcers in the colon can cause low iron levels. A simple blood test can tell.

Diarrhea or taking steroids can cause low potassium and magnesium levels.

Talk to your doctor about whether these nutrients could be a problem for you. You may need to take  vitamins just to be safe. Nutrition supplement drinks can also make up for missing nutrients, but they may cause diarrhea.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 29, 2015
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