Good nutrition is an important part of managing ulcerative colitis. Malnutrition may also cause people to feel more fatigued, and some medications may not be as effective when nutritional status is depleted. People with Crohn’s may be at risk for developing malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, which makes it more difficult for the body to heal and fight infection. With proper monitoring and attention to nutrition, these complications can often be avoided.
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.
Best Diet for Ulcerative Colitis
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!