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Diet For Ulcerative Colitis: Foods To Eat & Avoid

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Learn how certain fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins can impact ulcerative colitis symptoms and flare-ups.


While there is no fixed diet plan for people with ulcerative colitis, it can be helpful to identify and eliminate foods that trigger symptoms so you can improve your overall quality of life. 

In this guide, we’ll look at foods to eat and avoid to help those with ulcerative colitis manage their symptoms.

What is ulcerative colitis? 

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is one of the components of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the digestive tract. The function of the immune system is to help protect the body from harmful irritants, but for an ulcerative colitis patient, the immune system reacts abnormally, causing inflammation. This inflammation occurs in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients. 

How diet can impact ulcerative colitis

Gluten-Free Diet

According to research, sticking to a gluten-free diet may result in improved IBD symptoms and lesser ulcerative colitis flare ups. Consuming gluten as an ulcerative colitis patient may cause bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

High-Fiber Diet 

A high-fiber diet is one that equals or exceeds the daily fiber intake of the United States Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Dietary Reference for fiber. 

The current daily dietary fiber recommendations are: 

  • Women 19-50: 25g
  • Men 19-50: 38g
  • Women 51+: 21g
  • Men 51+: 30g

A high-fiber, low-fat diet helps with inflammation by altering the pH and permeability of the gut (chronic gut inflammation is one of the common UC symptoms).

Gut dysbiosis often occurs in conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. This imbalance affects the functioning of the gut and disrupts the working of the immune system. When you have either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, there’s less good bacteria and more harmful bacteria that sticks to the gut, causing issues. Studies have shown that a high-fiber diet can change the bacteria in the gut of IBD patients. Also, ulcerative colitis patients who followed a high-fiber diet saw improvements in their quality of life. 

The breakdown of dietary fibers can result in the production of ferulic acid, which helps fight inflammation and serve as protection against damages in the digestive system. 

Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) 

The main focus of Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is to control IBD symptoms.  The diet emphasizes the consumption of meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. It limits dairy and eliminates processed foods and sugars (except honey and grains). While there’s limited research on the effect of SCD on ulcerative colitis, recent research has shown that it may benefit those with Crohn’s disease when compared against the Mediterranean diet. After 6 weeks, it was found that more of those on SCD felt better and experienced a reduction in inflammation.

Foods that help with ulcerative colitis

Vegetables and Fruits 

Vegetables and fruits are a great source of various nutrients and are important in every healthy diet. The tolerance for fruits and vegetables differs in each patient, but they are great at helping ease discomfort during a UC flare, especially those that are easier to digest (it’s important to avoid uncooked or cruciferous vegetables and raw fruits).

If you’re looking for a way to tolerate fruits and vegetables better, you can remove the skins and seeds and cook the vegetables until they’re tender..applesauce is a great example.

Some of the fruits and vegetables to eat: 

  • Asparagus 
  • Bananas 
  • Cucumbers 
  • Potatoes
  • Cantaloupe 
  • Melon 
  • Squash 

Grains 

Grains such as oats, rice, and wheat are great sources of iron, selenium, magnesium, Vitamin B, and fiber.

During a flare up, the following grains are recommended

Protein-rich foods

Protein provides Vitamins B, E, magnesium, zinc, iron, and various other nutrients. Patients with IBD may need to consume high amounts of proteins when experiencing inflammation or recovering from it.

Some protein-rich foods are: 

  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Nuts & nut butter (e.g., almond, cashew, or peanut butter) 

Omega-3 fatty acids 

Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce intestinal inflammation and maintain remission in UC patients. This is why it’s recommended that those with UC consume a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids. 

Some sources of omega-3 fatty acids are: 

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed 
  • Mackerel 
  • Walnuts 
  • Salmon 
  • Hemp seeds

Calcium

Calcium is also great for people with IBD, especially for those who have osteopenia (low bone density), or osteoporosis (weak bones).

Sources of calcium are: 

  • Soy milk
  • Lactose-free milk 
  • Yogurt 
  • Kale 
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt 

Probiotic-rich foods

Probiotics are live microorganisms that help improve and restore the gut microbiota. Research shows that probiotics may help reduce ulcerative colitis flare-ups and symptoms.

Example of probiotics are: 

  • Yogurt
  • Cheese 
  • Pickles 

Foods to (mostly) avoid with ulcerative colitis 

FODMAP

FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) are sugars which can be found in some carbohydrates and sugar alcohols. Intolerance to foods that are high in FODMAP results in bloating, cramps, excessive gas, increased bowel movements, and diarrhea.

High-FODMAP foods include: 

  • Certain vegetables, cereals, and legumes such as artichokes, garlic, onions, asparagus, etc.
  • Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners  (mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol found in ice cream, candies and sugarless gums) 
  • Certain fruits like prunes, apples, peaches, and pears, as well as their juices. 

Lactose 

Patients with ulcerative colitis are prone to lactose intolerance. Some patients may only encounter issues with lactose intolerance during a flare or after the removal of a part of the small intestine. Some people with IBD may be lactose intolerant. This may result in bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and cramping. If you have ulcerative colitis, you may be able to consume small amounts of milk or you may need to avoid it completely.

High-fat foods

High-fat foods can result in gas and diarrhea due to incomplete fat absorption. This may be more common in patients who have had a large segment of their small intestine removed or who have inflammation in the small intestine. High-fat foods include cream, margarine, and butter. 

Gluten

IBD patients may suffer from gluten intolerance or be sensitive to gluten-containing foods such as barley, rye, pasta, and other wheat products. 

Spicy foods 

Foods such as hot peppers and hot sauces may trigger or worsen a flare-up.

As always, nutrition advice needs to be personalized, so we recommend consulting your doctor and/or Registered Dietitian to figure out what works for you.

Frequently asked questions

Can vitamins/supplements help with ulcerative colitis? 

Yes, patients with ulcerative colitis may take supplements to prevent a deficiency or make up for a deficiency since the condition can sometimes prevent a person from maintaining sufficient nutrients due to the restriction of a food group or food.

For example, to tolerate milk, patients can take lactase supplements. Also, fiber supplements can help reduce proinflammatory markers and prevent mucosal damage. 

Can you eat eggs with ulcerative colitis? 

Yes, you can. Eggs and other dairy products are included in the meal plans of patients with ulcerative colitis. Research has shown that bioactive compounds found in eggs, like phosphatidylcholine, ovotransferrin, and lysozyme, can help reduce inflammation. 

Can I eat salad with ulcerative colitis? 

Yes, but only if you can make salads with vegetables that are easier to digest such as potatoes, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, etc. Salads with raw vegetables like carrot, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, peas, spinach, tomatoes, and/or Brussels sprouts should be avoided. 

Can I eat spaghetti with ulcerative colitis?

Yes, you can eat white or gluten-free pasta.

Interested in ulcerative colitis treatment at Local Infusion?

Diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in complementing infusion therapy, which is where Local Infusion comes in.

We offer modern, state-of-the-art centers with private suites, designed with your comfort in mind.

From questions on what to expect in your first treatment, to providing financial guidance and support, a dedicated Infusion Guide works with you and your physician to provide clear answers and assistance every step of the way. Plus, we handle everything having to do with prior authorization.

We’ll reach out within hours of a physician referral and get you digitally on board in less than two minutes, allowing our staff more time to focus on you.

Should you have questions regarding pricing and insurance, our team will work with you to provide financial assistance support and minimize costs, providing a simple and stress-free experience.

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