Published: 08/04/2014 - Updated: 04/27/2016
If you suffer from ulcerative colitis, it is extremely important that you understand that certain foods can aggravate your situation, which is why you should try to avoid them. This is a fantastic first step.
Alternatively, some foods can also be very useful in reducing your symptoms.
What is ulcerative colitis?
This is a chronic disease affecting the large intestines, the colon, and the rectum. It causes the colon and rectal walls to become inflamed, which causes ulcers, and the area becomes red and inflamed.
Symptoms of this condition are abdominal cramping, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, occasionally producing bloody stools.
Some people with ulcerative colitis also lose their appetite, and become increasingly tired and anemic.
Recent studies suggest that this is in fact, and auto-immune disorder. This means that the body attacks its own organs. Currently, there is no known cure, however, people can experience periods of remission (no symptoms) for extended periods of time.
Stress, along with certain foods, are known to aggravate colitis symptoms, which is why having a good understanding of them helps us fight and avoid outbreaks.
When we suffer from gastrointestinal illnesses, it is absolutely necessary to monitor the foods we eat. Conditions such as these can lead to deficiencies due to poor absorption, and also create the risk of dehydration as well as an electrolyte imbalance. This produces several symptoms, like tiredness and weakness.
A diet for ulcerative colitis must be very well balanced, and include plenty of complex carbs and healthy fats, as well as high quality proteins.
Foods to avoid when inflammation is present
While it may be true that avoiding certain foods doesn’t always prevent symptoms, a balanced diet will at least help control them.
Fiber: Fiber, the portion of vegetable products that our bodies don’t digest, is found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. While fiber is good for most people, it can be hard to digest for people who suffer from ulcerative colitis. This is why you should limit these foods when experiencing active symptoms. This means avoiding foods like legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), bran, seeds, almonds, nuts, and popcorn.
Fruits and vegetables: When you have active symptoms, you should avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables. Ripe bananas and melons are okay, as far as fruits go. For vegetables, cook them well and remove the seeds before eating them. Avoid fried foods and try to choose vegetable-based oils.
Avoid foods rich in fat: Fat can be hard to digest and can cause gas and diarrhea. This is why we recommend cooking your food with very little fat, avoid fried foods, and try to choose vegetable-based oils.
Say “no!” to seasoned foods: Avoid spicy foods, or foods that are heavily seasoned. Also keep in mind that chocolate and artificial sweeteners can aggravate symptoms as well.
Proteins: Proteins are an essential part of our diets, however, when choosing proteins, you must chose those with the least amount of fat, like white meat, chicken (without the skin), fish, and eggs. You can also opt for vegetable proteins like soy (no other legumes, though, because they’re hard to digest), or natural, roasted peanuts (in moderation).
Don’t forget liquids
It’s very common to become dehydrated when dealing with a bout of colitis. That’s why we recommend drinking enough liquids every day. However, while some beverages are recommendable, we recommend avoiding others
Fresh water: You should drink 6 to 8 glasses of fresh water a day, depending on how much liquid you lose.
Juices: We recommend only drinking natural juices, without added sugar. Sugar is very hard on the body when the intestines are inflamed. Fruit and vegetable juices can be drank, but try not to consume the majority of your liquids in juice form. Alternate juices with fresh water.
Milk: We strongly advise against consuming dairy products, especially if you have an intolerance to them.
Caffeinated beverages: Avoid caffeine of any kind. This substance stimulates intestinal activity, which can be counter-active when dealing with colitis.
Carbonated beverages: Avoid carbonated drinks that contain sugar or caffeine.
Alcoholic beverages: You should generally avoid these types of drinks.
Recommended foods and supplements
There are some foods that, while they don’t necessarily fight the symptoms, are advisable to include in your diet if you suffer from colitis. These foods combat deficiencies that could appear due to the illness.
Probiotics: These are foods that provide us with beneficial bacteria that contribute to colon health. Dairy products like yogurt and cheeses are probiotics, however, if you are lactose intolerant and you can’t tolerate these foods, it’s best to avoid them. Pharmacies carry probiotic supplements, so consult your doctor to see if they would be good for you.
Omega-3 fatty acids: According to studies, these fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, and reduce colitis symptoms. They are found in fresh water fish.
Folic acid: A lot of people who suffer from ulcerative colitis also present love levels of folic acid; we recommend using supplements to balance this.
Vitamin D and calcium: People with ulcerative colitis frequently have low levels of vitamin D and calcium; it’s also advisable to try a supplement for this.
Keep in mind…
It is very important that you learn to identify which foods you don’t tolerate, or those that aggravate colitis symptoms. If you happen to find a certain food with these characteristics, try to avoid eating it.