Ulcerative Colitis (UC) a disease that affects the colon (large intestine). It is part of a group of diseases known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Ulcerative Colitis creates chronic inflammation and ulcers in the colon and the lining of the rectum. The inflammation causes the bowel to empty more frequently resulting in diarrhea. It occurs among men and women alike and usually between the ages of 15 – 30, but can occur at any age. Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis include chronic diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, bleeding in the colon and rectum, weight loss, loss of appetite, loss of fluids in the body, malnutrition, and pain in the joints.
Why is Diet Important for Someone with UC?
Diet is a very important factor for someone who suffers from Inflammatory Bowel Disease. In some cases, where the disease becomes so severe that the colon, or parts of it, has to be removed, diet is even more important as it is hard for the body to absorb fluids and nutrients that it needs in order to function properly. During a flare-up chronic diarrhea can deplete the body of fluids, electrolytes, and essential nutrients. Paying attention to your diet is important as it can help to replace the loss of these nutrients, prevent additional weight loss, replace electrolytes and fluids, and help to reduce symptoms and heal tissues that have been damaged during these periods of flare-ups.
What Should Someone with UC Eat?
People with Inflammatory Bowel Disease find it difficult to eat when they are having a flare-up. Avoiding “trigger” foods is a very important factor during a flare-up. When suffering from UC it is helpful to keep a food diary with a list of what foods you are eating and what symptoms, if any, those particular foods cause. This will make it easier to avoid these foods in the future and may help to prevent flare-ups.
When someone is experiencing the symptoms of a flare-up the easiest foods to consume are those that are soft and bland. Foods such as rice, gelatin, and pudding are easiest to digest and cause less discomfort than foods such as raw vegetables, foods that are high in fiber or fat, and foods that are spicy. Since some fats are necessary in your diet you can add margarine and oils to your diet to obtain these fats.
Other nutrients that are necessary in your diet are proteins and carbohydrates. Most patients with UC can still consume meats, poultry, and fish as their source of protein and cereals, breads, fruits, and vegetables are a good source of carbohydrates.
Eating smaller meals throughout the day on a more frequent basis is a good way to avoid flare-up and also to help prevent off weight loss. Things to avoid during a flare-up are caffeine, as it will increase symptoms such as diarrhea and can also worsen dehydration, and milk and milk products if you are lactose intolerant. Popcorn, nuts, and seeds should also be avoided during flare-ups as these can cause bowel obstructions and other complications. Those who have Ulcerative Colitis have a harder time staying hydrated so it is very important to drink plenty of water when you are having a flare-up and also during periods of remission.
Gottschall, Elaine G. Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet. Baltimore, Ontario, Canada: Kirkton P; Revised Edition, 1994.
Dalessandro, Tracie M. What to Eat with IBD: A Comprehensive Nutrition and Recipe Guide for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. United Kingdom: CMG Publishing; 1 Edition, 2006.
Saibil, Fred. Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis: Everything You Need to Know (Your Personal Health). Tonawanda, New York: Firefly Books; 1 Edition, 1996.