Ulcerative Colitis Diets: Is this Safe to Eat?

the PicnicHealth Team
August 14, 2020
Blog post originally written by the AllStripes community team. AllStripes was acquired by PicnicHealth in 2023.

Historically, dietetics has been an essential part of disease management. Since the word dietitian was first coined in 1899, dieticians have worked to help manage various gastrointestinal symptoms and illnesses There is a wealth of evidence on how the science of nutrition vastly aids improvement in patient condition and prognosis. 

Dietetics is even more critical for people with gastrointestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis. The way the body processes food directly correlates with management  of the disease. 

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the colon or the large intestine. The condition causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers and leads to symptoms such as diarrhea, rectal pain, fatigue, weight loss, and fever. 

Nutrition is a vital part of managing the disease in order to prevent further bowel irritation and gastrointestinal issues. Consequently, those with this illness must make lifestyle changes to follow a proper diet therefore aiding recovery and prevention from uncomfortable flare-ups.  

What are dietary tips to remember?

Food planning and preparation don’t just affect the symptoms of ulcerative colitis—they can also affect a person’s overall health and well-being. While there is no single definitive meal plan for every person who has ulcerative colitis, there are certain types of diets that may alleviate the symptoms experienced by people with UC. 

Always remember to consult with a doctor before altering any food intake, as a person’s diet must be carefully tailored to address their specific UC symptoms.

Types of Diet You can Eat

  • High-Calorie Diet – This can be applied to those who suffered weight loss due to ulcerative colitis. Extreme weight loss can lead to malnutrition, and a high-calorie diet can effectively prevent this condition from occurring. 
  • Lactose-free Diet – Some people who have ulcerative colitis also develop lactose intolerance. Doctors may recommend a lactose-free diet to prevent irritation in the gastrointestinal  tract, which is already sensitive due to inflammation.
  • Low Fiber Diet – Low fiber leads to a low residue. This diet can reduce the frequency of bowel movements and reduce abdominal cramps.
  • Low-salt Diet – Some people who have UC undergo corticosteroid therapy or medication to reduce the inflammations. Reducing salt intake can be helpful in these cases.
  • Paleo Diet – This diet is rich in lean meats, chicken, turkey, and fish, and promotes increased fiber from roots and legumes rather than grains.

Common Trigger Foods to Avoid

Trigger foods can cause symptoms to manifest in ulcerative colitis patients. Most doctors recommend avoiding these items:

  • Alcohol – Stimulates the intestine and triggers diarrhea.
  • Caffeine – Another stimulant, caffeine speeds up the colon’s transit line and makes bowel movements more frequent. It’s found in coffee, tea, and chocolate.
  • Carbonated beverages – The carbonation can potentially irritate the digestive tract.
  • Dairy products – As mentioned before, lactose-intolerance can manifest in UC patients.
  • Dried peas, beans, legumes, fruits, and berries with pulp or seeds that are high in fiber can speed up the frequency of bowel movements.
  • Foods with sulfur or sulfate – Gas production can be a problem for people with UC. Sulfate is found in beer, wine, some dairy products, eggs, stone fruits, bread, and cruciferous vegetables.
  • Nuts and nut butter – These can make abdominal cramping worse, cause bloating, or cause diarrhea.

As with any diet or nutritional plan, maintaining a balance is vital. A clear discussion with a doctor about what a person with UC can and cannot eat is essential to ensure that they have the best nutritional intake to help them towards remission.

PicnicHealth is supporting new research into ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Learn more by visiting PicnicHealth.com.


the PicnicHealth Team

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LC-FAOD Odyssey: A Preliminary Analysis, presented at INFORM 2021

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(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

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However, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate amount of protein for your individual needs. In general, a diet with moderate protein intake (about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day) is recommended for people with kidney diseases.

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