Ulcerative colitis (UC) is characterised as a chronic, relapsing mucosal disorder that affects the mucosal lining of the rectum, sometimes extending to the colon. Highly debilitating, some of the after effects of the disorder include loss of appetite, weight loss, tiredness, stomach cramps, and anaemia. In addition to that, due to dietary and nutritional deficiencies, many patients suffer from other related problems like arthritis and joint problems, skin disorders, and bone loss.
Once a person is diagnosed with it, early intervention in terms of medication and learning to maintain a proper well-balanced diet is essential to keep the symptoms at bay. Improper diet and nutrition are known to cause flare ups due to the close relationship between the diet and the body’s reaction towards it. There are different diet plans that can help you lessen the symptoms of the disorder as well as successfully manage it from aggravating further.
Popular diets for ulcerative colitis include everything starting from meat to bread and cereals, but in consideration. The diet is less about what to eat and what to avoid and more about in what proportion, when and how much. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to managing the disease and eating healthy because the condition changes over time. What works for one patient might not work for another. The key here is to remain flexible and find what works for you. The process is very much like trial and error on patient’s part; however, there are few things that ought to be avoided by all.
Food to avoid
A study conducted on the influence of dietary factors on ulcerative colitis found that large intakes of meat or alcoholic beverages increased the likelihood of relapse for patients with ulcerative colitis. Results showed that consuming red and processed meat had the highest correlation with relapse of ulcerative colitis patients due to its high amino-acid components.
Other foods items to avoid include.
- Carbonated drinks
- Dairy products, if you’re lactose intolerant
- Dried beans, peas, and legumes, along with dried fruits
- Foods that have sulphur or sulphate (meat) and processed food (additives)
- Foods high in fibre (raw vegetables, and fruits)
- Refined sugar
- Spicy foods
Foods you can eat
Meat, fish, poultry is essential for a healthy diet and should be consumed (limited amounts) for a healthy and active life. Healthy fats like olive and canola oils can also be consumed in consideration. The key again is to know what works for you and what does not.
Things you should include in daily meals include:
- Dairy products (if you aren’t lactose intolerant) including milk, cottage cheese, or yoghurt
- Grains and related products including refined white bread, pasta, crackers, and dry cereals
- Meat, poultry, eggs, fish
- Fruits and vegetable juices with no pulp, raw, ripe bananas, melon and low-fiber fruits
- Healthy fats like olive and canola oils
Make your ideal nutritional meal plan
Your physician and dietitian will help make a personalised diet plan for you and also guide you to make healthy choices in daily life. Essential for staying healthy and active, it is important that you are keeping up with dietary requirements of your body.
According to existing guidelines for ulcerative colitis, patients are recommended to keep a check on their own diet and learn what works best for them and what doesn’t? Be mindful of how you feel after eating certain foods; avoid items and dietary elements that cause flare ups and over time create a better nutrition plan that works for you and helps you manage the symptoms.
- It is recommended to keep a food and symptom diary and record what you are eating and how your body reacts to it. This will help you identify food groups/items that lead to flare ups and also ensure that you aren’t avoiding any food items without any reason.
- Eat small and frequent meals as opposed to 3 big meals.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they aggravate the symptoms leading to diarrhoea.
- Avoid Sulphur and amino rich foods in large amount like cheese, milk, fish, nuts, and eggs (can be consumed in low quantities). Inorganic sulphates commonly found in commercial bread, beers, sausages, and dried fruit are to be avoided at all times
- Decrease fibre intake to a maximum of 10 grammes of fibre per day during flare ups. Raw fruit and vegetables should also be avoided to reduce irritation and lower the risk of intestinal blockage. When the flare up subsides, increase the intake to the recommended daily intake of 25–30 grammes.
- Take vitamin/mineral supplementation to keep with daily nutritional requirements.
- Eat dairy and dairy products if you aren’t lactose intolerant. Difficulty in absorbing minerals and less calcium intake beyond the recommended level puts ulcerative colitis patients at high risk of developing osteoporosis and other
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes protein, whole grains, and fresh produce.
- Drink lots of water and fluids to avoid dehydration.
Advanced measures you can take today
Ulcerative colitis is a disease that changes over time. What works for you now, might not work over time. There are many misconceptions surrounding the dietary and nutrition intake and there is still a lot left to be discovered about the disorder. To make sure that you are taking the best measures to manage your disease you can be a part of clinical trials conducted periodically by expert practitioners in the field. Being part of the clinical and research trials will help you discover better and innovative options to manage and treat the disorder.
To summarise, maintaining a well-balanced nutritious diet is a big part of managing ulcerative colitis. Having a proper nutritious diet depends, in large part, on what works best for you and suits your body. Talk to your doctor and dietician to help you design a meal plan that fulfils your dietary needs without aggravating the illness.