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Ulcerative Colitis: Find Your Trigger Foods

Which foods are causing problems for your ulcerative colitis (UC)? That's the million-dollar question. The answer is different for everyone.

To figure out which foods make you feel worse, try an elimination diet. For several weeks, keep a diary of what you eat and when you have flares. Then look for patterns. Avoid things that seem to bring on cramps or a trip to the bathroom. See if your symptoms get better or go away.

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You may need to experiment to figure out if a part of your diet truly gives you trouble or whether it just made your symptoms worse during a flare.

Talk to your doctor about what you notice. Your goal should be to eat as many different types of food as you can. The best diet for UC is one with well-balanced variety.

Problem Foods

Many people with UC report problems with the same foods. You may want to avoid these or cut back and see if your symptoms get better:

  • High-fiber foods such as bran, nuts, seeds, and popcorn
  • Fatty, greasy items and sauces
  • Milk products
  • Alcohol

Better Choices

Below are common foods that may make UC symptoms worse, along with some safer options. 

Just because a food is on your problem list doesn't mean you have to give it up. You can switch from full-fat to low-fat dairy and change your cooking method. Choose baking or broiling meats over frying. Bake or stew vegetables instead of eating them raw or lightly cooked.

Grain Products

Common problem foods:

  • Whole-grain breads, bagels, rolls, crackers, cereals, and pasta
  • Brown or wild rice

Better choices:

  • Products made from white or refined flour
  • White rice

Vegetables and Fruits

Common problem foods:

  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy greens, including mustard, turnip, and collard greens, and spinach
  • Most raw fruits
  • Dried fruits, including raisins
  • Canned cherries and berries

Better choices:

  • Well-cooked vegetables without seeds
  • Ripe bananas, peeled apples, and melons
  • Soft, canned fruits without added sugar

Meat and Protein

Common problem foods:

  • Fried meats such as sausage and bacon
  • Luncheon meats like bologna and salami
  • Hot dogs
  • Dried beans, peas, and nuts

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