4 Foods to Eat if You Have Ulcerative Colitis
Medication is usually the first line of defense when treating an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis (UC), but medical treatments can be costly and come with serious side effects. Plus, the number of IBD patients experiencing long-term remission through the use of medication is relatively low, according to an article published in February 2016 in the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery.
Another study, published in September 2018 in the Indian Journal of Gastroenterology, shows that what you eat can also play an important role in keeping symptoms at bay. A diet rich in peeled fruits, cooked low-fiber vegetables, lean meats, and fish can help protect some people against UC symptoms.
A healthy diet is key to a stable GI tract even in people who don’t suffer from IBD. “Good nutrition provides the nutrients the body needs to fight disease, inflammation, and promote a healthy immune system.”
Connie Diekman, RD, wo is a food and nutrition consultant based in St. Louis emphasizes that while UC isn’t caused by diet, the right foods can help manage symptoms.
Here are four foods to try to help keep UC inflammation under control.
1. Low-Fiber Vegetables Counter Intestinal Irritation
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, and kale, contain a wide variety of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are important for anyone, especially people who have UC. Unfortunately, these foods may be hard to digest.
“Cruciferous vegetables are often foods people find hard to consume, particularly when the IBD is more out of control.” These vegetables contain a carbohydrate chain known as raffinose, which humans do not have the enzyme needed to break down; this means that it passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested. These foods are also known to cause excessive gas, which can exacerbate symptoms in people with UC.
Instead of going for cruciferous vegetables, opt for vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini, & asparagus, which are easier on your digestive tract. Always remember to peel vegetables and cook them — steaming retains the most nutrients and cuts down on extra fat, which can also cause irritation.
2. Fermented Foods Can Help Balance Gut Bacteria
Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut contain active probiotics, considered good bacteria, which can be helpful for some people with digestive problems, according to the Brigham and Women’s Health Crohn’s and Colitis Center. Probiotic foods add good bacteria to the digestive tract, which can improve the health of the whole body.
According to a study published in August 2018 in the journal Frontiers of Microbiology, live probiotics in the gut can help regulate the immune system, too.
Since UC is an autoimmune disease, people living with the condition may benefit from extra immune support.
Fermented foods are great by themselves — kombucha tea, for example — or as a garnish to any healthy dish, like kimchi over rice.
3. Spices Like Ginger and Turmeric Can Fight Nausea and Joint Pain
“Spices such as ginger and turmeric may help fight the nausea and inflammation associated with digestive disorders such as UC,” says Kennedy, noting that more research is needed to determine both the amount and best form of delivery for these benefits. As a rule of thumb, stay away from supplements.
Concentrated ginger supplements could cause heartburn, diarrhea, or gas. Instead, try incorporating ginger and tumeric into soups or stir-fries. As with all diet changes, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before adding ginger and tumeric to your diet.
4. Choose Fish With Omega-3s to Fight Inflammation
Scientists have not yet come to a consensus about whether or not eating red meat has any effect on people with UC, but the nutrients in fish could be beneficial.
Consuming foods like fatty fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may help with UC-related inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a crucial nutrient your body uses to make cells and hormones that regulate blood clotting. While some studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, more research still needs to be done to prove they’re beneficial. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), omega-3 fatty acids, like probiotics, also support the immune system.
Unlike other fats, the body can’t make this good fat on its own from other raw materials. Instead, you must get it from food sources, including fish like salmon, herring, sardines, rainbow trout, and mackerel — just refrain from frying fillets, since fatty or greasy foods can exacerbate UC symptoms.
Instead, try baking or grilling fish, or try this recipe for UC-friendly salmon chowder.
Also remember that it’s especially important to make sure you’re eating enough protein immediately after a flare-up to replace any lost nutrients and reduce the risk of anemia.
Choosing the Right Diet for Ulcerative Colitis
Because each body is different, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet for UC. Work closely with a registered dietitian to design a diet that works for you. It’s also good to keep track of what you eat in a food journal. This makes it easier to pinpoint which ingredients trigger your symptoms.
Source: By Kathleen Lees for EveryDay Health
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