Milk may aggravate the symptoms of ulcerative colitis in some people. They may wish to try alternative types of milk, such as oat or soy. However, people should be mindful of getting enough calcium if they choose to avoid dairy products.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). UC affects approximately
This article defines UC and explains how someone’s diet can affect their symptoms. In addition, it discusses which types of milk to avoid and consume and provides other dietary tips.
People with UC may experience flares and periods of remission. Doctors typically treat the condition with medication or surgery.
While there is no evidence to suggest that any particular food or diet causes, prevents, or cures IBD, certain foods may cause a person’s symptoms to worsen during a flare.
Regular dairy milk contains fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs). FODMAPs are a group of sugars that a person’s digestive tract may have trouble absorbing.
People may wish to track any reactions to dairy and other food products by keeping a food journal.
The primary sugar in milk is lactose. Some
Some people find they cannot tolerate lactose, especially during a flare, found in dairy foods such as:
- milk, skimmed and whole
- soft cheese such as cream cheese
According to a
The following types of milk may be suitable for someone with UC. However, a person should monitor any symptoms when introducing a new type of milk.
- lactose-free dairy milk
- soy milk
- oat milk
- almond milk
- rice milk
- hemp milk
- coconut milk
- cashew milk
- pea protein milk
Read more about almond, hemp, oat, soy, and cow’s milk.
Getting enough calcium
When avoiding dairy products, a person must ensure they are still getting enough calcium in their diet. They can choose the types of milk that manufacturers have fortified with calcium. They may also wish to try the following food sources of calcium:
It is important to note that some of the above foods can trigger or worsen flares for certain people. A person should monitor for any reactions to these foods.
Learn more about calcium-rich foods that do not contain dairy here.
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation advises that there is no single diet that works for everyone. Instead, they suggest that someone with UC works with a doctor or dietitian to develop a personalized meal plan that ensures they get adequate nutrients.
When a person is in UC remission, they should eat a balanced diet that includes all the food groups. Some
- fish, especially oily fish such as mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- lean meats such as chicken and turkey
- plain dairy products such as lactose-free yogurt and kefir
Foods to eat during a flare
People may help avoid worsening symptoms by eating soft, bland foods. These may include:
- white pasta or rice
- low fiber fruits such as banana and cantaloupe, or juices
- fully cooked vegetables without skin, such as asparagus tips and squash
Additionally, someone may wish to include probiotic foods such as yogurt, kimchi, or sauerkraut. They may also consider taking supplements with their doctor’s approval. A person should speak with a dietitian to determine the best source of probiotics in their diet.
Learn about probiotics for UC here.
Food to avoid during a flare
The following foods and drinks may trigger symptoms during a flare of UC:
- raw vegetables
- baked or processed goods
- sugary sweets
- fried and spicy foods
- caffeine and alcohol
Read more about the foods to eat and avoid with UC.
Additionally, the following tips may help:
- stay adequately hydrated with water, broth, or a rehydration solution
- eating meals on a regular schedule
- having four to six smaller meals a day rather than three larger ones
- keeping a food journal during a flare to help identify trigger foods
- using simple cooking techniques such as boiling, grilling, or steaming
- drinking slowly and avoiding using a straw, which can cause gas
Dairy may be a common trigger for symptoms of UC. Avoiding it may help during a flare. Many milk alternatives are available, including oat, soy, and almond milk. Additionally, probiotic drinks such as kefir may help some people.
There is no single diet to help everyone with UC, and people should work with a healthcare professional to explore what is right for them.
The low FODMAP diet may be beneficial for some people. However, any diet that restricts foods needs to be supervised by a dietitian. Eating a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet and avoiding too much sugar, processed foods, and alcohol is beneficial for the digestive system and a person’s overall health.