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Diet for Ulcerative Colitis

Diet for Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of parts of the intestine. A diet plan can play a key role in providing relief to a person suffering from this condition.
Kanika Khara
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2018
What is Ulcerative Colitis?

It is a condition characterized by inflammation, redness, swelling, and ulceration of the inner walls of the intestine. It is widely believed that this condition is caused by excessive stress and intake of the "wrong" foods. However, this is not true. In fact, researchers have discovered that ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease, which means it is caused by the attack of the immune system on the healthy cells of the body.

Here are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
  • Cramping abdominal pain
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Traces of blood in feces
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Loss of body fluids and nutrients
How a Diet Can Help

A patient of ulcerative colitis needs to take special care when it comes to his/her diet, and make sure the diet is rich in nutrients. Not following a proper diet can cause dehydration and weakness. In extreme cases, the bleeding can also result in anemia. When chalking out a diet plan for someone with ulcerative colitis, make sure it includes healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates. In other words, opt for a balanced diet.
The best thing about following a diet plan is that it makes one avoid the foods that can aggravate the symptoms of the condition. Also, it has been observed that certain foods can help reduce the symptoms associated with the condition. So, if you had been wondering all this while if a diet plan can help, you can see that it does. However, the trick lies in choosing the right plan, with the right foods in it.
What to Eat

If you're planning to chalk out a diet plan, the first thing that you'd need is a list of foods that you can eat. So, let us begin with the foods that are safe for a patient with ulcerative colitis.
► Soluble Fibers
Soluble fibers are nothing but fibers that get dissolved in water, and are completely digested in the intestines. They are different from the insoluble fibers that pass undigested through the digestive tract. Soluble fibers are found in the pulp of fruits, peeled vegetables, oat bran, white rice, etc. Peeled fruits are safe because the peel is made up of insoluble fibers, and once that is removed, what remains is the pulp.
► Lean Meat
Lean meat is meat without lots of fat in it. Fat is one of the triggers that can cause a flare-up. So, to manage the condition, go for lean meat, like chicken or turkey.
► Fish
While fatty meat may be quite harmful, many people with ulcerative colitis have found that fatty fish doesn't cause a problem. Also, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, are essential fatty acids that are required by the body.
► Dairy Products
While it is widely believed that dairy products are harmful for people with ulcerative colitis, this is hardly true. Milk and milk products cause a problem only if one is lactose intolerant i.e. the body doesn't secrete the enzymes required for the breakdown of lactose (a sugar present in milk). Not all people suffering from ulcerative colitis are lactose intolerant.
Here's a list of all things that one can have if one is diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
  • Cereals
  • Fresh fruit juice (without added sugar)
  • Peeled vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Soy
What Not to Eat

Moving on to foods that you need to avoid, it all zeros down to what suits your system and what doesn't. While some people with UC complain of aggravated symptoms after sipping on a cup of coffee, others experience the same after a few bites of gluten bread. So, is there a standard list of foods that one must stay away from, after having been diagnosed with UC?
Well, there are certain foods that have been found to trigger symptoms in most patients. However, not all of these foods cause a flare-up in every patient. Here's a list of such foods.
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeinated beverages (tea, coffee, energy drinks)
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Beans, peas, and other legumes
  • Dried fruits
  • Fruits with seeds
  • Fatty meats
  • Products containing sorbitol
  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Corns and mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
This was a list of foods that are the most common triggers. Different foods can cause different reactions in people with ulcerative colitis. Hence, the best way out is to find what suits one's body, and what doesn't, and then chalk out a diet plan accordingly.
Tips to Stay Healthy

In addition to following a diet, there are other things that one can do, in order to manage the condition. Since stress is believed to be a cause of this condition, taking steps to reduce stress in one's life, can be of immense help.
► The most important advice for a person with ulcerative colitis is, "Drink lots and lots of water." Increased intake of fluids is essential for a smooth functioning of the digestive system, and for preventing dehydration.
► Instead of eating two to three large meals, it is better to opt for smaller meals at smaller intervals.
► Exercising can have an array of benefits, relieving stress and reducing depression. Thus, people diagnosed with this disorder should perform breathing exercises that help the body relax.
► An effective way to combat stress is to find time for things one loves. So, if listening to music is something that one finds relaxing, then setting some time aside for enjoying one's favorite tunes, is a great idea!
► If one is lactose intolerant and cannot consume milk and milk products, he/she should not forget to take supplements to make up for the deficiency of calcium in the diet. In addition to calcium, supplements for folic acid, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, might also be recommended by a dietitian.
► Loss of weight is a common symptom observed in people with ulcerative colitis, and it occurs due to many factors acting together. Firstly, the persistent diarrhea causes loss of essential nutrients from the body. Secondly, the inflamed digestive tract is less efficient in absorbing nutrients from the food that one eats. This is where food supplements come into the picture, and the doctor may subscribe one or more of these supplements for someone who is diagnosed with a deficiency of the same. On experiencing sudden weight loss or weight gain, one must immediately consult a dietitian.
► It is recommended that one maintains a food diary, which is nothing but a record of all such foods that can spell trouble. Once it's known which foods to avoid, managing the condition becomes a lot easier.