Ulcerative colitis is a health condition that affects your digestive tract, and that’s one of the main reasons why it’s important to watch your diet. The foods you eat can play a big role in whether or not you have an uncomfortable flare-up, and because there’s currently no known cure for ulcerative colitis, doing what you can to avoid aggravating your symptoms — which eating certain foods may be more likely to do — can be one effective way to manage this condition. Learn more about the ways diet and menu planning can help you lead a lifestyle that may limit colitis discomfort, including what to eat — and what to avoid.
Foods to Avoid When You Have Ulcerative Colitis
There’s no definitive evidence that specific foods are universal triggers for ulcerative colitis, but people who have this condition do often find that certain foods can make their symptoms feel worse, especially when they’re experiencing a flare-up. If you’re in the middle of an active symptomatic period, a low-fat, low-fiber diet may help you feel better.
Limiting dairy could help improve your symptoms, particularly because people with ulcerative colitis tend to be sensitive to lactose, a type of sugar in milk products that can lead to diarrhea, gas and abdominal pain. High-lactose dairy products to avoid during a flare include milk, cream and soft cheeses like cream cheese. High-fat dairy products like butter may also worsen your symptoms.
In addition to high-fat dairy products, you might also avoid high-fat foods in general. Ulcerative colitis can make it difficult for your body to process and absorb fat, and fat molecules can encourage inflammation in your gut, which you want to avoid when you have ulcerative colitis. Eating high-fat foods can also interfere with digestion. Try to stay away from items like red meat, coconut, oils and anything fried or greasy, such as fast food.
Foods with insoluble fiber — the type that your body can’t completely break down and digest — are also known triggers that can cause diarrhea, bloating and pain. Fruits and vegetables with skin on are typically higher in fiber and may trigger symptoms. In particular, raw vegetables with skin; cruciferous veggies like cabbage and broccoli; and fruits like prunes, apples, pears, citrus and berries may have more fiber than your body can handle. Nuts and whole grains like those in some breads may also be more difficult to digest.
A few other ingredients may exacerbate flare-ups, too. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar and “hot” spices like cayenne pepper are common trigger foods. If you drink them, consider reducing or stopping your consumption of sodas; they’re sugary, packed with caffeine and carbonated, which can cause bloating and gas. Baked goods, candies and juices are other foods in this group to avoid.