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A person with UC may experience symptoms, such as abdominal pain or diarrhea after consuming certain foods, especially during a flare-up. Many individuals with UC choose a diet that eliminates some foods and relieves their symptoms.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease that results in inflammation and sores, called ulcers in the digestive tract.

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloody diarrhea
  • mucus in stool

A person can manage these symptoms by eating or avoiding certain foods to help reduce the risk of flares and inflammation of ulcers.

Read this article to learn more about different diets to consider if a person has UC, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snack recipe ideas that may relieve the symptoms a person may experience.

Learn more about inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) here.

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People with ulcerative colitis can follow several diets to help minimize the frequency and severity of their symptoms.

Some of these diets include:

  • Gluten-free diet: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. This diet eliminates all foods that contain gluten. Reasearch from 2021 has shown that gluten ingestion may promote inflammation. However, there is still insufficient evidence to evaluate the role of gluten in maintaining UC. A gluten-free diet may also significantly modify the gut’s microbiota composition.
  • Specific carbohydrate diet (SCD): This diet involves individuals eating simple carbohydrates that are easier for the body to digest to minimize intestinal inflammation. A case study on one patient with a persistent case of UC demonstrated that the diet can decrease the frequency of bowel movements. The patient also noted the absence of abdominal pain and blood in their stool. However, the authors advise trying more conventional therapies first.
  • Paleo: This dietary strategy involves mimicking how prehistoric ancestors may have eaten. A person following this diet will only consume whole foods that people could hunt or gather. Studies have shown that a paleo diet can regulate inflammation in the gut, which can help individuals with UC. Read more about paleo and ulcerative colitis.
  • Vegan diet: A vegan diet eliminates all animal products including meat, dairy products, fish, and eggs. A plant-based diet may significantly reduce the risk of relapse in people with ulcerative colitis.
  • Vegetarian diet: A vegetarian diet eliminates all meat and fish but a person will still consume dairy products and eggs. Studies show that consuming vegetables can increase the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Although, some people may also experience aggravated symptoms by foods used to replace meat.

A person should consult a doctor or nutritionist before starting any specific diet to ensure they are not lacking in any vital nutrients.

Read more about what foods to eat and avoid with ulcerative colitis.

Breakfast can replenish the supply of glucose to boost energy levels. An individual with UC can consume various sweet and savory breakfast options. These include:

Breakfast smoothie

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has anti-inflammatory effects, which helps reduce the severity of UC for people.

Most individuals with UC can tolerate smoothies, but they are also a great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables first thing in the morning.

However, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. People with active UC should avoid or reduce insoluble fiber consumption. For example, not consuming raw foods and removing peels when possible.

Fruits and vegetables contain high soluble dietary fibers, such as:

For example, blending up blueberries, spinach, yogurt, cinnamon, ginger, and almond milk can be a tasty breakfast option. Other smoothie ideas are available online.

An alternative to smoothies is juices for ulcerative colitis.

Read more about insoluble and soluble sources of fibers.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is high in resistant starch and easy to digest.

Research has investigated the potential use of resistant starch as a prebiotic. Prebiotics can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon, which is important in reducing inflammation in people with ulcerative colitis.

People can make oatmeal with non-dairy milk, such as soymilk, nut-based milk, or water. They can also top their oatmeal with fresh, dried, or peeled fruits and some nuts, which are all soluble sources of fiber.

Read on for benefits and ways to make oatmeal.

Egg scrambles

Egg scrambles are a great source of lean protein in the morning. Including different vegetables can also add variety.

Egg yolks also contain Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a significant role in:

  • maintaining the gastrointestinal barrier
  • monitoring the gut microbiota
  • regulating inflammatory immune responses

People who follow vegan or vegetarian diets can use tofu instead of eggs to make a delicious tofu scramble.

Breakfast muffins

People can make breakfast muffins ahead of time to make busy mornings simpler. There are also plenty of recipes that use alternative flours, and people can have them sweet or savory.

For example, a person can make sugar-free blueberry muffins using gluten-free flour.

Sweet potato pancakes

Research shows that purple sweet potatoes can decrease inflammation in the gut because they contain numerous anti-inflammatory compounds.

A person can use sweet potatoes instead of flour in pancakes, which may help decrease UC symptoms.

Additionally, using coconut flour allows a person to make sweet pancakes rather than savory ones.

A person can combine any vegetable with meat or meat alternatives and bread or salad. Some recipe ideas include:

One pan chicken and butternut squash

A one pan chicken and butternut squash recipe contain two, simple main ingredients. White poultry is a source of lean protein. Meanwhile, butternut squash is a type of winter squash. Squash contains potassium, an important nutrient for people with UC.

People may also substitute the chicken for a meatless option, such as tofu or tempeh.

Read on for good meat alternatives.

Salads

Salads are a good lunch option and may include dark, leafy greens, vegetables, carrots, beets, and other salad greens. These foods help fight disease at a molecular level, which may benefit UC symptoms.

Alternatively, if a person is experiencing difficulty tolerating these foods, they should try eating them in smaller amounts. However, if a person is experiencing an extended flare of symptoms, it is best to avoid raw ingredients.

Salad recipes are available online for all types of diets.

Veggie wraps

Veggie wraps are a good sandwich alternative. They usually contain cooked or baked vegetables, which are a good source of soluble fiber. Vegetables also contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which benefit a person’s maintenance of symptoms.

A veggie wrap is quick and easy to make. A person can also opt for gluten-free wrap options as an alternative.

Dinner recipes will also include vegetables and meats or meat alternatives. These can include:

Cauliflower pizza

Cauliflower pizza is great for individuals with UC because it eliminates the gluten-based crust and is a healthy alternative to a wheat pizza. A person can also try other gluten-free pizza bases or alternative recipes online.

Pizza topping options include:

  • roasted butternut squash
  • zucchini
  • roasted garlic
  • tomatoes
  • meat or plant-based alternatives

Stir-fry

Stir-fry is another great option because it incorporates meats or meat-free alternatives, vegetables, or noodles. These foods contain protein, fiber, and carbohydrates, respectively.

Rice and rice-based noodles can be a great alternative for people with UC, as they are low in fiber and easily digestible.

Read more about a low fiber diet.

Dessert options usually contain a high amount of sugar. High sugar intake may stagger the balance of the gut’s microbiota, which can be problematic for people managing UC symptoms. However, there are alternative options for sweet treats:

Muffins and pancakes

People can make breakfast muffins and pancakes as a sweet dessert option.

People can also try flourless and sugar-free online recipes for gut-friendly options.

Yogurt

Another dessert idea for people with UC is yogurt. Some yogurts contain probiotics. Probiotics are a type of healthy bacteria that benefit the gut.

Probiotic yogurt may have nutritional and beneficial immune-modulatory effects in people with UC. People can buy these online or make their own at home. There are many recipes online for SCD homemade yogurts.

People can add soluble fruits to the yogurt, including berries such as blueberries or mangoes.

Read more about probiotics for ulcerative colitis.

Coconut flour cake

To avoid consuming refined sugars and wheat flour, a person can make a cake from alternative flours, such as coconut flour. They can also use sugar-free alternatives and coconut oil. These ingredients offer further anti-inflammatory properties for people with UC.

This coconut flour chocolate cake recipe is one a person can try.

A person with ulcerative colitis may consume healthy snacks in between meals to maintain a moderate weight.

Vegetables or chips with hummus

Vegetables are a healthy plant-based snack. Although, if a person is experiencing a flare-up, they may want to avoid consuming too much insoluble fiber, such as raw carrots.

People with UC are generally able to tolerate chips and hummus as a snack well. The chickpeas in hummus may help relieve symptoms of gas or bloating.

To make hummus at home, a person can blend chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil. They can add seasoning but should avoid adding too much salt. Find a recipe online to make hummus at home.

Fruits

Fruits are a healthy option full of mostly soluble fiber, so they are a great snack for those who are experiencing severe UC symptoms.

Soluble fibers are present in peeled apples and citrus fruits.

Nuts

Nuts have numerous anti-inflammatory properties and are another convenient snack.

As research from 2020 demonstrates, cashew nuts show preventive effects on intestinal inflammation in mice. However, more human research is needed.

Read more for snack ideas for people with ulcerative colitis.

One of the best strategies for those experiencing a UC flare-up is to meal prep. This takes the guesswork out of what a person eats and allows them to prepare foods that are easier on their gut.

A person can decide what dishes to eat for a few days or weeks and make them ahead of time.

There is no single diet or meal plan that will relieve symptoms for every person with UC. However, keeping a food diary is a good method for managing the condition. By keeping a record of what and when one eats, they should be able to identify problem foods and eliminate them from their diet.

A person can also consult a nutritionist for help creating a specific plan suitable for them.

During the middle of a flare-up, individuals usually need to be more cautious of what they consume to minimize their symptoms. They should also follow guidelines from doctors and continue to take their prescribed medication at its appropriate dose.

A person should try reducing foods high in protein. Researchers associate a diet high in protein, particularly animal protein, with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease and relapses. People can try substituting high protein foods with tofu, tempeh, and legumes.

People should also try to decrease their intake of insoluble fibers during flares. Instead, opt for items that have soluble fibers, which are easier to digest.

If a person is experiencing particularly bad symptoms during a flare, it is best to eat simple, less complex meals so that digestion is easier. Simple soup recipes with just a few ingredients are a great way to feel full while also going easy on the gut.

Moreover, instead of consuming three meals a day, eat 5–6 smaller meals throughout the day. Consuming smaller meals is easier on the gut and digestion, so this may help with UC symptoms.

People should speak with a doctor for effective ways to manage a flare-up.

There are many recipe books available that make knowing what foods to eat and how to prepare them much easier.

Here is one example of a recipe book for an SCD. There are also recipe books available to help improve gut health.

Finally, there are recipe books specifically for UC.

Some individuals can tolerate some foods that others cannot. It is good for people to experiment with their diet to determine which foods make their symptoms worse and what foods do not.

To start, try decreasing animal-based foods and gluten during a flare-up, as these may aggravate symptoms.

A person should work with a nutritionist to determine which foods to consume and avoid to manage their condition effectively.