Ulcerative Colitis Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

Ulcerative colitis dietWhile ulcerative colitis is not caused by any specific diet, research shows that certain foods trigger symptoms so for this reason an ulcerative colitis diet has emerged.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine. If you have been diagnosed with this disease, you won’t be able to cure it by changing your diet, but there are foods that can aggravate symptoms during a flare-up. Gastroenterologists suggest that following an ulcerative colitis diet is a good idea when the disease is in remission. A diet for ulcerative colitis includes basic nutrients for good health.


Ulcerative colitis is characterized by severe periods of abdominal discomfort along with diarrhea and a loss of appetite.

Foods to Eat for Ulcerative Colitis

Since ulcerative colitis causes diarrhea, it is crucial that sufferers replace lost fluids when they experience a flare-up. In terms of what you should eat, an ulcerative colitis diet plan can include the following foods:

  • Fresh fruits – Fresh fruits that have limited fiber but a lot of vitamins, nutrients, and water can help those who suffer from ulcerative colitis. Avocados, bananas, cooked apples, peaches, seedless grapes, and soft melons are good examples.
  • Soft bland foods – Many foods for ulcerative colitis should be soft and bland. These foods help prevent gastrointestinal problems. Oatmeal, puffed rice, gelatin, boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, brown rice, noodles, as well as cooked or canned vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, and spinach are options.
  • Yogurt – Plain, cultured yogurt has probiotics that can replace good bacteria. In moderate amounts, dairy products will not lead to gas and diarrhea. If milk causes bloating, gas or stomach discomfort, turn to lactose-free milk or soymilk.
  • Turkey – Inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis can deplete the body of protein and lean protein like turkey, chicken breasts, fish, and eggs can help replenish it. Beef is also acceptable in moderation if it is lean.
  • Salmon – Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is good for the colon. The fatty acids are believed to be able to help ease inflammation. Albacore tuna, walnuts, and flaxseed are also good sources of omega-3s.
  • Squash – Butternut, spaghetti, acorn, and zucchini are all healthy squash. They are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. The antioxidants can help repair damage that is done by inflammation. You will want to cook the squash as opposed to eating it raw. You can boil or roast it. Many foodies now run squash through a vegetable shredder to make noodles instead of using pasta.
  • Applesauce – This has a lot of nutrients but you have to be careful about the amount you consume since it has fiber and fructose that can aggravate symptoms during a flare-up. If it bothers you, remove it from the diet altogether.
  • Instant oatmeal – This popular breakfast meal is considered among foods for ulcerative colitis since it is a little easier to digest than other grains and oats.
  • Eggs – This is one of the foods to eat with ulcerative colitis because it offers good nutrition. Eggs are also easy to digest, making them a good option.
  • Fluids – A good routine to follow is to have half an ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, then you drink 75 fluid oz. each day, which works out to just over nine cups. Keep in mind that high-water foods, such as cucumbers and watermelons, count towards fluid intake.

Ulcerative Colitis Foods to Avoid

Now that we have looked at foods good for ulcerative colitis, we’ll outline foods to avoid with ulcerative colitis. If you have received a diagnosis recently, you will likely find the list below helpful:

  • Caffeine – While research into the effect of caffeine on ulcerative colitis continues, some data, including a survey conducted in 2013, found that about 20 percent of people with the condition reported caffeine made their symptoms worse. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate.
  • Dairy – This is on the list of ulcerative colitis trigger foods because some people find that it triggers symptoms. There are many who can tolerate dairy, but it is something to watch for if you have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
  • Alcohol – This is known to trigger diarrhea in some ulcerative colitis sufferers.
  • Carbonated drinks – Carbonation can irritate the digestive tract. Sodas and beers are carbonated.
  • High fiber foods – Dried beans, whole grains, berries, peas, and legumes are high fiber foods that encourage bowel movement. Of course, if you have ulcerative colitis, you suffer from diarrhea, so you don’t need help with movements. Fiber will just make this symptom worse.
  • Popcorn – This popular snack can be hard to digest so it is best to avoid it.
  • Fatty meat – Fat in meat may not absorb well during an ulcerative colitis flare, making symptoms worse. Red meat is high in sulfate, which tends to trigger gas.
  • Sulfur or Sulfates – This can cause excess gas production. Foods like almonds, wheat pasta, bread, raisins, and cured meats, as well as beer, wine, and cider fall into this category. A study conducted in the UK back in 2004 suggests that it might be sulfur compounds in foods like alcohol, and meat that cause a relapse of UC symptoms for some people.
  • Nuts and seeds – This includes nut butter that can cause bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. It’s important to know that even small seeds can trigger UC symptoms.
  • Sugar alcohols – Sugar-free gums and candies, some fruit juices, and many types of ice cream contain sugar alcohols that can trigger gas, bloating, and diarrhea symptoms in those who suffer from ulcerative colitis.
  • Fructose sugar – Fructose can be a problem for some people because it can be poorly absorbed. Check labels for high-fructose – corn syrup, fruit juice, honey, and molasses all contain fructose.
  • Some vegetables – Veggies that are high in fiber and vegetables that cause gas should be avoided. Stringy vegetables like celery, as well as vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli aren’t recommended. Ulcerative colitis sufferers are encouraged to cook vegetables since they seem to be aggravated by raw.
  • Spicy foods – Hot sauces and hot peppers can cause diarrhea in people who don’t have ulcerative colitis so you can imagine how it can trigger a flare-up for those who do suffer from this condition.
  • Gluten – Found in wheat, rye, and barley, gluten can sometimes trigger ulcerative colitis symptoms. Oats don’t contain gluten; however, they seem to have a similar protein that can cause a reaction in people sensitive to gluten.
  • Dried fruits – While dried fruits like raisins, apricots, mangos, and figs have become popular snacks, many of these foods are high in fiber and therefore can trigger ulcerative colitis symptoms.

When you suffer from ulcerative colitis, you can feel desperate for relief, and it can be easy to get caught up in fad diets that claim to cure ulcerative colitis. Diet does not cure this inflammatory bowel condition but dietary changes can reduce symptoms. To find the best diet for your individual situation, it is best to talk to your gastroenterologist and a nutritionist who is familiar with UC. Again, there may not be a diet cure, but what you eat can make a big difference in your comfort level as you live with this chronic disease.

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Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.



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