5 Ulcerative Colitis Food Rules

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. And like Crohn's disease, another common IBD, ulcerative colitis can be debilitating, causing wrenching abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Although the exact causes of ulcerative colitis is unknown, researchers think it may be the result of an overreaction by the immune system to normal bacteria in the digestive tract. Scientists also think heredity might have a role in the onset of colitis, since people with a family history of the disease, such as a parent or sibling with the condition, are more likely to develop the disorder. What probably doesn't cause colitis, say researchers, is stress, although stress can aggravate symptoms.

There's also no firm evidence that what you eat causes IBD, although certain foods and beverages can aggravate your symptoms. If you suspect that certain foods are triggering an episode, keep a food journal to spot which foods might be making your symptoms worse and try eliminating them from your diet. Here are some suggestions that could help.

  • Limit dairy products. You may be lactose intolerant (your body can't digest the milk sugar or lactose in dairy foods). If you are lactose intolerant, you may find that your diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas are lessened when you limit or eliminate dairy products from your diet. If you are lactose intolerant, taking an over-the-counter enzyme supplement like Lactaid can help break down the lactose.
  • Experiment with fiber. While high-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, for people with IBD high-fiber foods can make symptoms like diarrhea, stomach pain and gas worse. Steaming, baking or stewing fruits and vegetables before eating them may reduce their adverse affects. But before adding high-fiber foods to your diet, check with your doctor to make sure they won't exacerbate your symptoms.
  • Eliminate problem foods. Avoid any foods that seem to make your symptoms worse, including "gassy" foods like beans, cabbage, broccoli, raw fruits, alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages.
  • Eat several small meals a day. Having five or six small meals a day rather than two or three larger ones may help reduce symptoms.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. Try to drink plenty of liquids each day, with water being at the top of the list. Stay away from alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine because they stimulate the intestines and can make problems with diarrhea worse, and carbonated drinks usually cause gas.

Before making any changes to your diet, check with your doctor or a registered dietician to determine which foods would give you the best nutritional value without triggering bouts of colitis.