No one knows why some people get ulcerative colitis (UC) and others get to avoid this particular malady, but we do know it inflames your bowels and irritates your rectum and the inner lining of your colon. Over time, this leads to the formation of ulcers in your digestive tract and a long list of embarrassing and painful symptoms.
Dr. Darrien Gaston and our team here at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates in Chicago, Illinois, specialize in diagnosing and treating all types of gastrointestinal conditions, including ulcerative colitis. Depending on the frequency and severity of your symptoms, we can treat your UC with medications, biologics, and even surgery when necessary, but there’s a way you can decrease your need for these measures — changing your diet.
Here, Dr. Gaston explains how the food you eat plays a role in your UC treatment plan.
How food affects UC two ways
Since UC is a problem in your digestive tract, it makes sense that what you eat matters. In fact, food has a two-fold effect on you if you have UC.
Certain foods are tough to digest and can exacerbate your UC symptoms. While there are some we can warn you against, there’s no comprehensive list of foods to avoid because everyone is different.
Robs you of nutrients
While eating certain harmful foods can potentially make your UC worse, a strict diet can lead to unwanted side-effects, such as causing unintended weight loss and robbing you of essential nutrients.
Common foods on ulcerative colitis no-no list
Again, your body is unique and responds to foods differently, so don’t adopt a diet plan just because someone else you know has UC and it works for them. You’re going to need to spend some time figuring out exactly which foods help and harm you.
That said, a good starting point is to eliminate the foods that most people with UC have to give up, such as:
- Dairy (at least high-lactose dairy)
- Fatty foods
- Spicy food
- Insoluble fiber
If that list seems long and depressing, don’t panic. This is just a starting point to help you narrow down your personal UC triggers. Feel free to add back everything on this list that doesn’t cause your symptoms to flare up.
Diet plans for ulcerative colitis
Any Google search about UC will produce several articles about the FODMAP diet, which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Foods that contain high FODMAPs aren’t absorbed well in your small intestine, and the bacteria in your colon ferments them and leads to gas and other UC symptoms.
In addition to lactose, these foods include grains like barley, rye, and wheat; apples and pears; cauliflower, mushrooms, and stone fruits; and even honey.
Low-FODMAP, UC-friendly foods include:
- Cucumbers and zucchini
- Lean meats
Another diet that may help is the Mediterranean Diet, which is naturally low in processed foods, refined grains, and extra sugar, and high in fruits, vegetables, and lean meat and fish.
But remember, no single diet is right for everybody, and you may need to combine these lists and customize them to fit your unique set of symptoms — and we can help you.
While we’re on the topic of popular diets, steer clear of the keto and paleo diets. They can restrict your intake of essential nutrients and load you up with some of the most harmful ingredients for folks with UC.
How to eat right when you have ulcerative colitis
Developing a healthy eating plan that keeps your UC under control takes patience and professional guidance. While we’re working with you to find what works best for you, here are some basic tips to keep in mind:
- Drink plenty of water every day
- Keep your proteins lean
- Eat low-fiber fruits and veggies
- Take supplements if recommended
During an acute flare-up, refined grains are actually better than whole grains because foods like pasta are easier on your digestive system than foods like seeded, whole wheat bread.
When preparing your meals, simplest is best. Don’t fry your foods and don’t over season them.
And remember, you’re not in this alone. At Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates, you have a whole team of professionals who can help you figure out your diet and your medications so you can live a full and active life.
To learn more, schedule an appointment by booking online or calling our friendly staff today.