What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a kind of inflammatory bowel disease. In this chronic autoimmune disease, the large intestine that consists of the colon and rectum is affected. The innermost lining of the colon is inflamed and damaged, and tiny pus and mucous-filled sores or ulcers are formed. The resulting abdominal pain creates the urge to frequently empty the colon.
What are its symptoms?
Typically, symptoms of ulcerative colitis are mild and vary from person to person. Some of them are:
- Loss of appetite
- Loose bowels or persistent diarrhea
- An urgent sensation to pass bowel
- Stool mixed with blood because of rectal bleeding
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Weight loss
What are the diet changes to be made to manage ulcerative colitis?
While it is not 100% clear, ulcerative colitis is suspected to be caused by an overactive immune system, genetics, and the ingestion of certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, oral contraceptives, and/or a fat-rich diet. Stress, both physical and emotional, is also thought to be a possible trigger for ulcerative colitis. Even with advanced western medical resources, a cure has not been discovered yet. But managing this health condition with modifications in the diet is possible. Depending on the cause and the severity of the symptoms, the following are the lifestyle changes to manage ulcerative colitis:
Adjustments to the diet pattern:
- A low-fat diet can be considered because foods rich in fat are thought to be contributors to this condition.
- People suffering from ulcerative colitis sometimes suffer from intolerance to dairy products and gluten. Hence, reducing or eliminating milk and all products made of milk and/or wheat could help contain the symptoms.
- The amount of fiber consumed can be reduced to lessen the frequency of bowel movements.
- Calorie-rich foods can be increased in consumption to deal with weight loss.
- Nutritional supplements might be required to counter the effects of anemia and diarrhea symptoms.
- Eat small meals and eat more frequently. This might help in better absorption of nutrients from the foods you eat, rather than having three large meals every day.
Avoid the following foods:
- All types of alcohol and caffeine from coffee, tea, and energy drinks increase bowel movement.
- Green leafy vegetables, certain fresh and dried fruits, and whole grains and pulses have high fiber content that could increase bowel movement.
- Carbonated beverages, root vegetables, fermented foods, those that contain yeast and sulfur, and some dried lentils can produce gas and irritate the lining of the digestive tract.
- Nuts, chocolates, meats, foods that contain refined flour and sugar, and spicy foods can worsen the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Include the following foods:
- Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are some types of fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.
- Poultry and lean meats, eggs, and soy products, and avocados provide the necessary protein that is usually lost by the body.
- Plantains, all kinds of squash, and carrots are vegetables that people with ulcerative colitis might be able to tolerate and gain nutrition from.
- Probiotics found in foods like yogurt, kefir, and miso contain helpful bacteria that help in digesting food.
These are the major lifestyle changes to manage ulcerative colitis.