Lifestyle and Diet Tips for Ulcerative Colitis
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Unlike Crohn’s Disease, which affects any part of the digestive tract, Ulcerative Colitis affects only the colon and rectum. Still, it is a long-term condition associated with inflammation and ulcers with an unknown cause. Most theories essentially include immune system dysfunction, changes in gut bacteria, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors as contributors to the cause.
Interestingly enough, rates tend to be higher in the developed world. Some experts propose that this statistic is due to less exposure of intestinal infections, while others claim that the Western diet and lifestyle greatly influenced the rise in numbers. People aged 15 to 30 often get diagnosed, as well as those over 60 with males and females affected in seemingly equal proportion.
Ulcerative Colitis Diet
Improving Your Diet for Control over Colitis
Many people with Colitis can manage their symptoms through a modified diet. You will need to identify which foods trigger your symptoms and eliminate those foods as often as you can.
You may be able to learn new ways of preparing a diet based on what your body can digest properly.
To help you begin identifying foods that may trigger colitis symptoms, try eliminating the following:
- Carbonated beverages
- Caffeinated beverages
- Fruits that contain seeds
- Vegetables that contain seeds
- Legumes (Beans, broccoli, and cauliflower)
- Sugary and starchy foods such as pastries, cookies, bread, pasta
These are common sources of inflammation and eliminating these foods will often alleviate your Crohn’s symptoms. Consider using supplementation to boost your health and aid the effects of prescribed therapy.
Ulcerative Colitis (UC) Symptoms
What are the symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis (UC)? The main symptom of ulcerative colitis (UC) is frequent, watery diarrhea, which may be accompanied by cramping abdominal pain and the passage of blood and/or mucus. When the disease affects only the rectum – the final portion of the bowel, it is known as proctitis. When ulcerative colitis (UC) affects more of the colon than the rectum alone, symptoms are more severe. The symptoms vary according to the degree of inflammation in the bowel and whether or not the lining of the bowel has become ulcerated.
In addition to the symptoms already mentioned, there may also be:
- pain on opening the bowels
- urgent and frequent need to open the bowels
- the sensation of incomplete emptying of the bowels
- diarrhea, even during the night
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- extreme tiredness
A number of other problems may be associated with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). These are more likely when the disease is active and include skin rashes, mouth ulcers, joint pains, and anemia. Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is defined as mild, moderate or severe, according to the frequency of diarrhea, the presence of blood and how generally unwell the person is.
Nutrition Guidelines for Ulcerative Colitis (UC):
Here are a few reasons why people with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) may be at nutritional risk:
- Decreased food intake due to decreased appetite, pain, diarrhea, or other symptoms (or fear of these symptoms)
- Increased needs for calories, protein, and some vitamins and minerals
- Diarrhea or other fluid losses can lead to dehydration if not replaced
Some medications prescribed for Ulcerative Colitis (UC) may affect appetite, taste sensation & nutrients absorption.
The recommended diet for ulcerative colitis is a balanced diet focusing on adequate calories, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fluid. No specific foods are known to trigger ulcerative colitis or make the disease worse. Therefore, there are no specific foods that must be avoided by all patients with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Some individuals may have their own food intolerances or notice that certain foods cause discomfort. In such cases, those foods should be avoided. Nutrition needs may vary from person to person depending on the status of their disease. Thus it is best to meet with a dietitian who can help you individualize your diet to best meet your needs.
Calories and Protein
It is important to take in enough calories each day to maintain a healthy weight. Your calorie needs may be increased when you are acutely ill. Rapid, unintentional weight loss places you at risk for malnutrition. The inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis may lead to increased protein needs. Inadequate protein intake may negatively affect healing and lead to muscle loss. A dietitian can provide more specific guidelines for your individual calorie and protein needs, as well as provide you with more information on increasing calories and protein in the diet if needed.
Dietary fiber is an important component of a balanced, healthy diet. Fiber is broken down in the colon into short chain fatty acids. The colon uses these short chain fatty acids as an energy source. In people with Ulcerative Colitis (UC), there is no need to limit the intake of dietary fiber. Likewise, it is not necessary to increase fiber intake above the recommended levels for the general population. Recommended daily dietary fiber intake is 15-25 grams. Trial and error is the best way to figure out what amount of fiber you are able to tolerate in your diet. The amount of fiber tolerated varies between individuals and may also vary with an individual during an Ulcerative Colitis (UC) flare.
Vitamins and Minerals
Calcium and vitamin D are nutrients important for healthy bones. Many adults do not take in enough of these nutrients. Patients with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) are especially at risk because dairy products (which are the main source of calcium and vitamin D) are often avoided. However, such avoidance is often not necessary (see the section below on lactose and dairy products for more information).
The medication sulfasalazine may decrease absorption of the nutrient folic acid. If you are on sulfasalazine, your physician or nutritionist may recommend folic acid supplements.
Patients with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) are at risk for iron deficiency due to possible blood loss from the colon. Iron levels can be measured by a blood test; supplements may be recommended if levels become low. Your physician or dietitian may recommend additional vitamin and/or mineral supplements based on laboratory values or other information.
Lactose and dairy products
Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products. Some adults have difficulty digesting lactose and dairy products due to low levels of the enzyme (lactase) needed to break down lactose in the small bowel. Symptoms include cramping, bloating, gas, and/or diarrhea after consuming dairy products. Since digestion of lactose occurs in the small intestine (not the colon which is affected by ulcerative colitis), patients with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) do not have a higher incidence of lactose intolerance than the general population. Therefore, routine avoidance of dairy products is not needed. If tolerated, dairy products can be a good source of nutrition for patients with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). If dairy products do cause discomfort, they should be avoided or eaten in smaller amounts as tolerated. In such cases, discuss your calcium and vitamin D intake with your physician or dietitian. More information on lactose intolerance is available from the Digestive Health Center; ask your physician or dietitian for additional handouts if needed.
Stress and Colitis
Stress can worsen symptoms of colitis. When a person experiences stress, the stomach empties more slowly and secretes more acids. Regular exercise, yoga, massage, and meditation are just a few ways to reduce stress.
Colitis and Pregnancy
It is suggested to wait until a woman’s disease is in remission before becoming pregnant. Based on the general population, women with colitis have about the same chance as women without it of having a healthy baby. Women generally have normal pregnancies if they were in remission at the time of conception. But, becoming pregnant when the disease is active creates a chance of the symptoms getting worse. You will be treated for the Ulcerative Colitis (UC) to control your symptoms as much as possible. There have been reports of colitis starting during pregnancy. The disease does not become worse just because of when it occurred. Even if one of your pregnancies was complicated by colitis, it doesn’t necessarily mean your next one will. Also, with your fluctuating hormones and emotions, it’s possible these factors may cause your symptoms to get worse.
Patients with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) should eliminate any foods or beverages from their diet that seem to make symptoms worse. The following suggestions may help:
- Limit dairy products; some patients benefit from lactase-fortified products.
- Try low-fat foods.
- Experiment with foods high in fiber (fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).
- Eat small meals.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Talk to a dietitian.
Avoid the following foods
- Carbonated beverages and caffeine
- Raw and dried fruits, raisins and berries
- Greasy, fried and processed foods
- Gas-producing foods (lentils, beans, legumes, cabbage, and broccoli)
- Spicy and/or highly seasoned foods
- Dairy Products
- All nuts and seeds, as well as foods that may contain seeds (such as yogurt)
- Vegetables from the Cruciferous family
Foods that may be regularly eaten in any quantity
- Ripened Bananas
- White rice
- Fish(broiled or baked-avoid shellfish)
- Chicken Soups (No Cream Soups)
- Fresh Chicken or Turkey
- Cooked vegetables
- English muffin
- Plain Cereals (e.g. Cheerios, Cornflakes,
- Cream of Wheat, Rice Krispies, Special K
- Ripened Banana
- Fruit juices (except prune juice)
- applesauce, apricots, banana (1/2), cantaloupe,
- canned fruit cocktail, grapes, honeydew melon,
- peaches, watermelon
- Enriched refined white bread or buns
- Alfalfa sprouts, beets, green/yellow beans, carrots,
- celery, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, mushrooms,
- green/red peppers, potatoes (peeled), squash, zucchini
- Well-cooked, tender meat, fish, and eggs
- Potatoes (no skin)
- Vegetable juices
- Arrowroot cookies, tea biscuits, soda crackers, plain melba toast
- White Rice
For more information on diet restrictions and suggestions for your Autoimmune Disease, call A.M.P. Floracel® at 954 637-7613 to speak to a specialist today!
Lifestyle Tips for Ulcerative Colitis
Day-to-day life with UC can pose a challenge, but there are ways to cope with the symptoms and keep the intensity of chronic flare-ups at bay. Those intense flare-ups can occur during high-impact exercise and make you feel way too sick and tired as a result. Still, physical activity should not be neglected, even if it is tai chi, walking, or a gentle yoga.
Resting is extremely important. Try not to strain yourself too much and always pace yourself. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep because you’ll probably spend half of your day drained of energy without it. Also, sometimes circumstances will dictate that you’ll need to visit the toilet as soon as possible due to unexpected bowel movements, so it’s handy to be strategic about it and know your surroundings in advance. Having extra clothes and a roll of toilet paper nearby is also a smart move.
Anti-diarrheal medication can be your best friend on occasions, but consumption on a regular basis will lead to serious problems. Diet can control the condition, supplementation can replace some important nutrients found in certain food groups which are bad for you, and just keep everything in moderation.
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