What People With Ulcerative Colitis Should Know About Diet

Some health care providers may counsel their patients to try a FODMAP elimination diet during an UC flare, followed by reintroduction of FODMAP foods once in remission.

What does that mean for actually eating food? Well, you may want to try swapping high-FODMAPs like cauliflower, mushrooms, dried fruit, cow’s milk, and legumes for low-FODAMPs like eggplant, carrots, grapes, potatoes, eggs, quinoa, and tofu.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is widely considered to be one of the world’s healthiest eating patterns for people with and without chronic conditions.

Characterized by a high consumption of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats—hello, olive oil and fish— the Mediterranean diet has been linked with increased diversity of the gut microbiome9. Good news for people with IBD, since diversity in the gut bacteria could help to ease symptoms.

Paleo diet

While you may have heard of the paleo diet, the autoimmune protocol diet (AIP), which is considered to be similar to the paleo diet, may have some benefits for people with IBD.

“There is some data on use of an autoimmune paleo style diet to help reduce symptoms in those with colitis,” says Dr. Singh, yet the research is very new and limited.

This type of elimination diet should only be undertaken after discussions with—or the help of— a medical professional to make sure you are getting the necessary nutrients and calories.

The AIP diet recommends avoiding gluten and refined sugar, as well as an initial elimination phase of, well, just about everything else. That includes grains, legumes, nightshades, dairy, eggs, coffee, alcohol, nuts and seeds, oils, and food additives.

You then (thankfully) reintroduce foods until you figure out what works best for your gut. The goal is to cut out foods that cause an inflammatory response.

Although some very small studies see the benefits of this style of eating, more research is needed10.

Gluten-free diet

If you have UC and feel a little gassy or bloated after eating pizza or a sandwich, you’re not alone. Many people with IBD have digestive side effects, like the aforementioned gas and bloating, when eating gluten. In a large observational study of more than 1,600 participants, half of the patients reported symptom improvement and nearly 40% fewer IBD flare-ups on a gluten-free diet.11

Again, everyone is different, but experimenting with gluten-free alternatives for things like bread, crackers, and cake, may be worth trying to manage UC.

Tips for meal prepping

Now that you have a sense of what to eat for ulcerative colitis, it’s time to get in the kitchen. Meal prepping some simple ingredients can make your life easier and prevent a UC flare. Here are some simple strategies:

  • Buy pre-chopped fruits and veggies. Having produce in your fridge that don’t require any preparation will make you more likely to add them to your plate at mealtime.
  • Go frozen. Frozen fruits, veggies, and whole grains are generally as nutritious as fresh produce. Buy frozen fruit for smoothies, frozen veggies for soups and casseroles, and frozen grains to heat up in the microwave as a side dish.
  • Pick up ready-made proteins. Stock up on simple options, like a rotisserie chicken or canned beans.
  • Make a big batch of soup. Not only is soup soothing, it’s also an easy way to add a ton of veggies to your diet and is super easy to make in big batches.
  • Stock up on healthy fats. Load up your cabinet with nuts, oils, and seeds for snacking, cooking, or adding texture to a recipe.

Supplements and other lifestyle changes to try

Besides diet and medicine, there are a few other therapies that could be helpful for people with ulcerative colitis.

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