Why an Ulcerative Colitis Diet Improves Health and How to Get Started

7 minute read

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that can be debilitating. If left untreated, it can even lead to life-threatening complications. The causes of ulcerative colitis can vary from inherited genetics to poor diet and stress.

The underlying problem with the condition is inflammation, which spreads through your intestines causing damage and disrupted digestion. You may not be able to cure ulcerative colitis, but with the right diet, you can reduce symptoms and live more comfortably.

Understanding Ulcerative Colitis

The long-lasting inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis damages intestinal walls interferes with nutrient absorption, can cause ulcers, and causes a narrowing of the intestines that impacts bowel movements.

Ulcerative colitis is generally uncomfortable and can cause major disruption to your health and life if not treated. The symptoms can appear gradually or suddenly and range from mild to severe. What is important is that identifying it early allows you to make changes that reduce symptoms and suffering.

Because the symptoms can vary from person to person and may also be similar to those of other conditions, it can be tricky to identify ulcerative colitis. Depending on where the chronic inflammation is located in your digestive tract, the symptoms can change.

There are a few common things to look for that can help you identify ulcerative colitis so you can seek a professional diagnosis.

♦ Diarrhea that often contains pus or blood

♦ Rectal pain and/or bleeding

♦ Weight loss

♦ Chronic fatigue

♦ Abdominal pain and cramping

♦ Urgency to discharge stools, but an inability to discharge them

Failure to identify ulcerative colitis and start corrective actions can cause more serious complications to develop. Severe bleeding can occur, as can severe dehydration, bone loss, widespread inflammation through your body, and sores in the lining of your mouth.

Your colon can also develop a hole in it or rapidly swell, both of which disrupt function. In addition to this, your risk for colon cancer and blood clots greatly increases.

Eating Right to Heal Ulcerative Colitis

When it comes to your diet, there are certain foods to avoid when you have ulcerative colitis. The key is to reduce the inflammation that is causing pain and damage.

Because the exact location can vary some foods may affect some people but not others. It is important to pay attention to what you eat and the impact it has, so you can correctly identify the foods to avoid.

For some, fiber is difficult to digest, so should be limited. This means limiting raw vegetables, which are not a great idea in terms of maintaining a balanced diet for health.

If you find that fibrous raw vegetables cause upset, you can steam, stew, or bake them first. Some also have problems with sugary foods, spicy foods, and carbonated drinks.

In general, there are specific foods that seem to aggravate symptoms in the majority of cases, including

♦ Alcohol

♦ Caffeine

♦ Dairy products

♦ Raw fruits and vegetables

♦ Popcorn

♦ Meat

♦ Refined sugar

♦ Foods with sulfate

♦ Seeds and nuts

♦ Products with sorbitol (sugar-free candies or gum)

Now that you know what to avoid, it is helpful to know what foods can help promote intestinal health and alleviate ulcerative colitis symptoms.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s can fight inflammation by specifically blocking the activities of inflammatory chemicals. As part of treatment programs, omega-3s have been shown to reduce inflammation, promote healthier bowel movements, and promote digestive health and function.

You can get all the omega-3 fatty acids you need from fatty fish like salmon or krill oil supplements.

Iron-Rich Foods

Anemia is a common condition associated with ulcerative colitis. Blood loss through ulcers and in diarrhea can deplete the number of red blood cells in your body. Iron is important for metabolism and energy production too, so it is essential to keep levels high.

To prevent any iron-related problems with ulcerative colitis be sure to include iron-rich foods such as liver, beef (if meat is not one of your trigger foods), black beans, spinach, and egg yolks.

Folate-Rich Foods

Folate helps your body to make new cells and is therefore especially important to those with ulcerative colitis. Folate-rich foods like chickpeas, lentils, broccoli, and avocados as well as folate supplements can reduce your risk for colorectal cancer.


Probiotics are essential for overall digestive health by maintaining a beneficial balance of your gut flora. Probiotics prevent bad bacteria, yeasts, and fungi from taking over your guts, which can lead to inflammation and intestinal damage.

| Related: Can Probiotics Help With Ulcerative Colitis? |

By preventing harmful bacteria from crossing through your intestinal walls, probiotics help prevent the chronic inflammation that causes and worsens ulcerative colitis. As part of ulcerative colitis treatment programs, probiotics have been found to successfully reduce inflammation and symptoms of the condition.

You can easily get these probiotic benefits with fermented foods such as yogurt or sauerkraut or taking daily probiotic supplements.

Supplemental Support

In addition to dietary changes, you can start adding supplements to the mix that are proven to be beneficial for ulcerative colitis. Turmeric is a known anti-inflammatory spice that has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation and pain.

Turmeric supplements have been found to work as effectively as corticosteroids only without the unpleasant side effects, making them a preferred ulcerative colitis treatment option.

You can also consider adding supplements to replenish nutrients that are commonly lost as a result of the disrupted absorption caused by ulcerative colitis.  

The best supplements to take in this case are calcium for your bones and vitamin D to help fight autoimmune diseases. Taking a general multivitamin will ensure you keep level up of all vital nutrients that may be lost.

The Bottom Line

Ulcerative colitis is a common bowel disease that is most often caused by poor diet and stress. As damaging as ulcerative colitis can be, it can also be treated. There may not be a cure but with the right diet, you can reduce inflammation, reduce symptoms, and bring relief to your bowels.

Do not wait if you suspect that you may have ulcerative colitis—find out for sure so you can make the changes you need to promote intestinal health and your longevity.

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