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Diet for Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is, literally, a pain in the rear: An inflammation of the large intestine and rectum. The symptoms – abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea and bleeding – can be debilitating.

And if you have ulcerative colitis, you know that sometimes it flares up, and it often depends on what you’ve had to eat. It’s important to understand that certain foods do not cause ulcerative colitis and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America says diet is not a major factor in causing inflammation. However, some colitis sufferers experience issues related to what they’re eating, so it’s smart to have an Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan to help control those flare-ups.

“Many people do identify some food triggers and these should be avoided if possible,” says Crozer Health gastroenterologist Joyann Kroser, M.D. “I think patients who keep a food-and-symptoms diary have more insight into what foods may challenge them.” Here is a diet plan that works for most ulcerative colitis patients:

Foods to Eat

  • Proteins, including fish, meat and poultry. No restrictions here, unless you happen to be a vegetarian. If you are, then soy-based proteins should also be fine.
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Grains and cereal.

So far, this seems like a pretty easy diet to follow. We should all be doing this, right?

Foods NOT to Eat

Here’s where it starts to get difficult. Importantly, this is not a one-size-fits-all list; different people react different ways. But if you’re experiencing a lot of flare-ups, these are the foods you may want to cut back on:

Alcohol: Some alcoholic beverages act as stimulants and can irritate the intestines. Red wine, mixed drinks and beer can cause issues such as diarrhea.

Caffeine: Caffeinated drinks can make you go the bathroom more often - too much if you have colitis, leaving you feeling depleted. Try some herbal tea.

Nuts: Nuts can be difficult to digest and irritate your digestive tract; even small pieces of nuts can irritate. If you’re going to eat them, chew them very thoroughly.

Fruit with seeds and/or skins: Seeds and fruit skins (think of an apple skin) can be difficult to digest. Also, beware of yogurt, smoothies and jams made with real fruit, which can contain seeds.

Spicy foods: Just avoid these.

Dairy products: Colitis and lactose intolerance often go hand-in-hand. People with abdominal pain, gas or diarrhea should try removing dairy from their diet to see if the symptoms go away.

For patients with ulcerative colitis who end up with a limited diet, it’s critical to make sure you get enough vitamins and nutrients.

“Patients who have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s should be on a multivitamin,” Kroser says.

Talk to your doctor about supplements that you should consider taking.