Some periods of your life, you almost forget you have ulcerative colitis. You get a glimpse into what “normal life” is like, without the painful symptoms and constant concern of how soon you’ll reach bathroom. Taking in the time you have without those feverish symptoms and relentless inflammation. Although ulcerative colitis can feel like an uncontrollable cascade of compromising complaints, there are a few things you can do to keep your symptoms at bay; one of the most highly recommended and suggested being your diet.
Dietary patterns for ulcerative colitis
Let’s get one thing straight, a specific diet isn’t thought to cause ulcerative colitis, but dietary changes can help manage the condition. Dietary patterns and habits will train your body to expect food. With consistency, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll have more awareness of what and how you are eating. Find the best pattern that works best for you while using the tips found below as a guide.
Mind the time between meals
Eating small and frequent meals is easier on your digestive system, giving it time to call upon powerful digestive enzymes paired with physical digestion to break down food. This means aiming for five or six smaller meals per day, rather than two to three large meals. Eating more frequently can also help you get in enough calories, a common concern of ulcerative colitis.
Focus on fluids
Dehydration is a dangerous result of ulcerative colitis. Rather than letting your body “shrivel up”, keep those fluids flowing. Water is going to be your best friend here, aiming for a bare minimum daily intake of 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. This can also come in the form of decaf tea, electrolyte drinks, and coconut water.
Supplement your diet if it’s not right (adequate)
Work with your physician or dietitian to get enough vitamins and minerals through food, first. If you are not able to get enough through the food you’re eating, consider taking a high-quality supplement. Beware of clever marketing scams and educate yourself on what to look for when choosing a supplement.
Get more by getting these in your diet
It’s not all about avoiding foods on an ulcerative colitis diet. Adding the right ones can be just as helpful. The key is to get your gut happy and your immunity strong through probiotics, anti-inflammatory foods, and plenty of wholesome nutrients.
Probiotics have shown to benefit ulcerative colitis by battling the bad bacteria which may be a cause symptoms such as gastrointestinal inflammation. In addition, they have shown to help improve overall gut health.
Not all probiotics are created equal and everybody’s microbiome is different. Taking too many of a certain strain may end up being more detrimental than helpful for you. So the best way to get more healthy bugs in your diet is to focus on natural probiotic containing foods (*yogurt, miso, kimchi, kombucha) and prebiotics (Jeresulam artichokes, banana, chickory root, bran).
*note that many probiotics foods contain common irritants for ulcerative colitis so proceed with caution and awareness
Fatty fish is full of anti-inflammatory omega-3, however, this is a good example of seeing if this specific food works for you. Having too much fat with ulcerative colitis can cause symptoms to get worse. Perhaps you’d do better by adding a bit of the oil or trying a supplement. Vegetarian or vegan? Try adding flax oil instead. These may help tame colon and overall inflammation. Learn more about ulcerative colitis inflammation and anti-inflammatory foods.
Nourish with nutrients
Get hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is the Scandinavian term that embodies getting cozy, giving yourself love, and focusing on nourishing foods. Having things like soup or broth is both nourishing and calming. Start by cooking your favorite soup or stew, or simply cooking your vegetables a bit longer then adding your favorite non-spicy seasonings. Aim to add lean protein such as chicken to your soup.
No-gos to help you “go” less
Learning what foods work for you and which don’t can be a lifesaver. Play detective and study the food label in order to discover which common processed ingredients may be lurking in your standard store-bought items. Speak up to the waiter or chef when you go out to eat and express any allergy or irritant you may have.
Bid residue adieu
Fiber is very healthy and helps prevent many diseases, but when it comes to ulcerative colitis, focusing on a low-fiber (low-residue) diet may be more beneficial. It can reduce the frequently you have a bowel movement, giving your intestinal lining a break.
Aim for these low-residue foods:
- Refined grains – white bread, white pasta, breakfast cereals
- Cooked vegetables – aim for the ones without seeds
- Lean protein – eggs, fish, lean pork, lean chicken
Don’t lie to yourself about fried and processed
Fried and processed meats, such as sausage and bacon tend to be problematic. Aim for well-cooked fresh meats, poultry, and fish instead. Try to avoid fried foods such as tempura, chips, and french fries because they are high in fat and inflammatory.
Treating treats, as treats
Avoid sweet fruit juices, sodas, or other drinks made with sugar and rather drink water, decaf tea, and hydrating drinks like coconut water. Avoid sugarless or sugar-free products because many times they have sugar alcohols, which lead to uncomfortable gas symptoms. Limit or avoid alcohol which is both irritating and dehydrating.
All about allergies
It’s easy to think you have lactose intolerance because symptoms are similar. Lactose intolerance means you have trouble digesting the sugar in milk and dairy products. Ulcerative colitis doesn’t make you more likely to have lactose intolerance, but many people experience symptoms after eating dairy. If dairy products cause you discomfort, try eating them in small amounts or with lactase, which helps break down the lactose (sugar) in dairy products, and switching from full fat to low fat products.
Journal to learn more about you
Keeping a food diary to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Just like Nori, it can be a helpful tool in discovering what foods you can tolerate, how much of those you can realistically eat, and which ones make your symptoms worse. Pay attention to the after effect of them as well; it may take up to 72 hours for symptoms to present themselves. Once you discover the culprits to your colitis, share it with a medical practitioner or dietitian. They can help you understand appropriate alternatives that will ensure you get all the macros, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs.