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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 affects the colon. Depending on disease severity, UC can cause symptoms like bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss. A person’s diet can impact symptoms and certain foods should be avoided when a person is experiencing a flare.
The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- abdominal pain
- bloody diarrhea
- mucus in stool
Although there’s no specific diet used to treat UC, avoiding certain foods during flares
Read this article to learn more about different diets and meal ideas to consider for people with UC who are in remission as well as people with UC who are experiencing a flare.
Several different diets may help minimize the frequency and severity of ulcerative colitis flares.
However, the right diet for ulcerative colitis varies from person to person. A diet that’s appropriate for one person with ulcerative colitis may be unhelpful or even harmful for someone else.
People with ulcerative colitis should work with their doctor to choose the most appropriate diet for their needs. A registered dietitian with training in inflammatory bowel diseases can also help a person select a suitable dietary pattern.
Some of these diets include:
- Gluten-free diet: Gluten is a type of protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. This diet eliminates all foods that contain gluten.
Animal studiessuggest that gluten ingestion may promote inflammation. In humans, studies of gluten-free diets have shown mixed resultsfor UC symptoms. While some people see improvements, there is not enough evidence to recommend a gluten-free diet to everyone with UC. A gluten-free diet may also significantly modifythe 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 studyon 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.
Studieshave shown that a paleo diet can regulate inflammation in the gut, which can help individuals with UC. Read more about paleo and ulcerative colitis.
- Plant-based diet: A vegan diet eliminates all animal products including meat, dairy products, fish, and eggs. A vegetarian diet eliminates all meat and fish but a person will still consume dairy products and eggs.
Studiesshow 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.
- Mediterranean diet: This diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Healthy fats are supplied by olive oil, nuts and fish. indicates that the Mediterranean diet may support healthy gut microbiota, reduce inflammation, and improve quality of life for some people with ulcerative colitis.
A person should consult a doctor or registered dietitian before starting any specific diet to ensure they are choosing an appropriate eating pattern for their individual needs.
Unless it is medically necessary, following a very restrictive diet could worsen UC symptoms or lead to other adverse health effects.
Eating in remission vs. during a UC flare
This article includes recipes intended for people with UC who are in remission. They may not be appropriate when a person is experiencing a flare.
During a flare, a doctor will advise focusing on easily-digestible foods.
Breakfast can replenish the supply of glucose to boost energy levels. Someone with UC can consume various sweet and savory breakfast options.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has
Most individuals with UC can tolerate smoothies. They are also a great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables first thing in the morning.
Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. People with UC are
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.
Oatmeal is high in resistant starch and easy to digest.
People who wish to avoid lactose can make oatmeal with lactose-free dairy milk, water, or non-dairy milk such as soymilk or nut-based milk. They can also top their oatmeal with fresh, dried, or peeled fruits and some nuts, which are all soluble sources of fiber.
Egg scrambles are a great source of lean protein in the morning. Including different vegetables can also add variety.
- maintaining the gastrointestinal barrier
- monitoring the gut microbiota
- regulating inflammatory immune responses
People who follow a vegan diet can use tofu instead of eggs to make a delicious tofu scramble.
Sweet potato pancakes
Research shows that purple sweet potatoes can
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.
Rice bowls are a good lunch option and may include cooked greens and vegetables topped with a protein such as chicken, salmon, or tofu.
Many rice bowls also include some raw vegetables for additional texture and variety. If a person is experiencing difficulty tolerating these foods, they may consider eating them in smaller amounts. However, if a person is experiencing an extended flare of symptoms, they may need to avoid raw ingredients.
If brown rice triggers symptoms, a person may choose to use white rice instead.
Rice bowl recipes are available online for all types of diets.
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:
Sheet pan dinner with vegetables
To simplify the cooking process, the ingredients for a UC-friendly meal can be roasted together on one sheet pan.
This type of meal can easily be customized to avoid an individual’s food triggers for UC.
Ingredient options a person might try include:
- sweet potato
- fish, meat or plant-based alternatives
To help a person get started, recipes such as sheet pan baked salmon with vegetables can be found online.
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.
Dessert options usually contain a high amount of sugar. High sugar intake may
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.
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
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 help meet their daily energy needs.
Hard boiled eggs
A hard boiled egg is a healthy snack that provides protein and many other nutrients. Many people with UC are able to tolerate hard boiled eggs well.
Hard boiled eggs can be cooked in batches and stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
A sprinkle of pepper or chili powder, a dash of mustard, or some chopped herbs can be used to add additional flavor.
Fruits are a healthy option full of mostly soluble fiber, so they are a great snack for people with UC.
Soluble fibers are present in peeled apples and citrus fruits.
A low-FODMAP elimination diet is a tool that can help a person learn if specific FODMAP-containing foods worsen their digestive symptoms. They can then choose to limit or avoid the specific foods they react to.
Nuts have numerous anti-inflammatory properties and are another convenient snack.
There are many options to choose from, such as peanuts, walnuts, and macadamia nuts.
Snacking on nuts or nut butter is an easy way to gain protein and healthy fats. They can be paired with fruit for a simple treat.
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 a flare, individuals usually need to be more cautious about what they consume to minimize their symptoms and get adequate nutrition.
They should also follow guidelines from doctors and continue to take their prescribed medication at its appropriate dose.
During a flare, a person may be able to continue eating anti-inflammatory foods such as:
- Fruits: Soft fruits that dissolve easily, such as applesauce, bananas, and raspberries
- Vegetables: Soft-cooked vegetables that dissolve easily, such as squash and carrots
- Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids: Soft or ground-up foods such as fatty fish, chia seeds, walnut butter, flaxseed oil, or ground flaxseed meal
Cooking fiber-rich foods or blending them into soups or smoothies can help a person tolerate them better.
People generally have higher protein needs during a flare. Protein-rich foods to try include:
- greek yogurt
A doctor or registered dietitian may recommend eating frequent small meals and snacks throughout the day, instead of 3 large meals.
Staying hydrated is also important. Depending on an individual’s symptoms, a doctor may recommend increasing fluid intake.
Continuing to eat a varied, nutrient-rich diet can help a person lower the risk of nutritional deficiencies during a UC flare.
People should speak with a doctor for effective ways to manage their specific symptoms and nutritional needs during 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 with UC.
Finally, there are online recipe finders specifically for UC.
The best diet for UC will be different for everyone. Some individuals can tolerate some foods that others cannot.
A person should work with their doctor and a registered dietitian to determine which foods to consume and avoid to manage their condition effectively.