Since ulcerative colitis (UC), a condition that causes inflammation in the colon and rectum, is never medically cured, certain lifestyle behaviors can help you manage symptoms and better cope with your condition. In addition to managing stress, paying attention to what you eat can have a big impact on your quality of life.
There is no single diet that works best for managing UC. In fact, no studies have shown that any specific diet improves symptoms or that any specific foods cause UC flare-ups. The best approach is to avoid or reduce the foods that aggravate your symptoms.
You should eat a well-balanced, healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, such as a Mediterranean style diet. Avoid preservatives and emulsifiers, such as carrageenan, carboxymethylcellulose, and polysorbate-80.
Having a nutritionist design a specialized diet plan for you may be helpful. The nutritionist will first want to identify foods that may trigger flare-ups or make your symptoms worse.
There is no strong evidence that following any particular specialized diet diet—such as low-carb, vegetarian, or paleo—has any effect on keeping UC in remission.
If you have inflammatory bowel disease and also irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a low-FODMAP diet may be helpful. FODMAP stands for the short-chain carbohydrates known as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Some people who eat high-FODMAP foods have an increased risk of problems like diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, and flatulence. FODMAPs include the following:
- disaccharides, such as lactose (in milk and other dairy products)
- monosaccharides, such as fructose (for example, in apples and honey)
- oligosaccharides, such as fructans (in wheat, onions, and garlic, for example) and galactans (commonly found in beans, lentils, and soybeans)
- polyols, such as sorbitol and mannitol (in some fruits, vegetables, and artificial sweeteners).
A low-FODMAP diet can help reduce abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea and improve stool consistency in people with IBS who also have well-controlled IBD. Consult with your doctor and a nutritionist about how FODMAP reduction may fit into your dietary plan.
Some research also has suggested that probiotics (live bacteria and yeast found in certain foods and supplements) can ease UC symptoms by improving gut health and may even lengthen periods of remission. A review of 18 trials, published in 2018 in the Journal of Cellular Physiology, showed that probiotics may benefit some people with UC.
Speak with your doctor about whether adding more probiotics to your diet might help you.
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