It can be tough living with ulcerative colitis. The disease, which causes inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine, comes with symptoms that largely affect one’s quality of life such as diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. Furthermore, certain foods can cause symptoms to worsen, so it can be frustrating figuring out what’s safe to eat. Luckily, many foods can actually lessen symptoms of ulcerative colitis and make the condition easier to manage.
A good rule of thumb is to pick foods that are easy to digest. Below is a list of foods that are easy on the digestive system and are unlikely to trigger an episode, or “flare,” of the disease.
- Fish. All kinds of fish are good sources of protein and are rich in nutrients.
- Refined grains. Although whole grains are considered healthier, people with digestive issues find them harder to tolerate. Some examples of refined grains include white breads and pastas, oatmeal, white rice, and some cereals.
- Fruits with low fiber. Bananas, cooked or canned fruits, watermelon, and peaches are fruits with low amounts of fiber.
- Eggs. Eggs are another good source of protein.
- Various fluids. Since diarrhea is a key symptom of ulcerative colitis, those who suffer from the disease must stay hydrated more frequently.
- Tofu. Like eggs and fish, tofu contains a lot of protein and is easy to digest.
- Well-cooked vegetables. All vegetables have skin, but when they’re thoroughly cooked, their skin becomes soft and it’s easier on the stomach.
Foods to avoid during flares
Although everyone with ulcerative colitis has a different response to different foods, some foods are generally considered to exacerbate flares more often than not.
- Foods high in fiber. You’ll want to avoid any fruits or vegetables with skin or a peel (unless they’re cooked well) as well as whole grains and nuts.
- Foods high in sugar. This includes cakes, pies, candies, fruit juices, and sodas.
- Lactose. This includes milk, cheese, and some yogurts.
- Foods high in fat. Fatty foods like butter, margarine, and fatty meats can trigger flares.
- Alcohol and caffeine.
- Spicy foods. Although they can be delicious, they can interfere with the digestive process and cause diarrhea.
Foods to eat when you’re in remission
When your Crohn’s has gone into remission, certain foods can help you maintain this disease state. These include:
- Sources of protein. Eggs, lean meats, and tofu are all good sources of protein.
- Sources of calcium. Dairy products like yogurt and milk are high in calcium.
- Foods rich in fiber. Oats, beans, nuts and whole grains are great ways to add fiber to your diet.
- Fruits and vegetables. Get a wide variety of different-colored fruits and vegetables.
- Probiotics. Some examples of probiotics include fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi.
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends that ulcerative colitis sufferers eat 4 to 6 small meals a day rather than 3 large meals.
In addition, keeping a food journal can be helpful for managing symptoms of the disease. Whenever you have a flare, you can look back in your food diary to see what might have triggered it. Write down the event in a notebook and keep a log. That way, you’ll know which foods work for you and which are less agreeable.
Finally, once you’ve found some foods that you can tolerate, keep a stash of them in your kitchen. You don’t want to run out of something and be forced to eat a food item that you know can trigger a flare.
Written by Natan Rosenfeld