Ulcerative colitis can cause intense periods of abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. While there is no one diet for people with ulcerative colitis, certain dietary modifications may help manage the condition and avoid flares.
This article explores which foods may trigger ulcerative colitis. It also looks at which foods might be beneficial for people with this form inflammatory bowel disease
Foods to avoid
Though the cause of ulcerative colitis is not understood completely, doctors are sure food is not a cause of the disease. However, the foods people choose to eat seem to have an impact on the episodes of ulcerative colitis flares.
Some foods are generally good to eat, while others may need to be avoided. Not all people will respond the same way to a food, so diets will vary.
Foods to avoid
There are some foods commonly recognized as trigger foods. These include:
- Caffeine: Although there is not a lot of data on the affect of caffeine on ulcerative colitis symptoms, a 2013 survey of 442 people found that 20 percent of individuals with the condition reported caffeine made symptoms worse. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate.
- Dairy products: While not bad for all people with ulcerative colitis, dairy products can trigger symptoms in some. People who are also lactose intolerant should avoid dairy, as the symptoms are similar.
- Alcohol: This may trigger diarrhea in some people.
- Carbonated drinks: Some sodas and beers contain carbonation that can irritate the digestive track and cause gas. Many carbonated beverages also contain sugar, caffeine, or artificial sweeteners, which can be ulcerative colitis triggers.
- High fiber foods: These include dried beans, fruits, whole grains, berries, peas, and legumes. They may increase the number of bowel movements, amount of gas, and abdominal cramping.
- Popcorn: Similarly to other seeds and nuts, this can be difficult to digest.
- Foods that contain sulfur or sulfites: This mineral can cause excess gas production. Some of these foods include beer, wine, almonds, cider, soy, wheat pasta, breads, peanuts, raisins, and cured meats.
- Fatty meat: Fat from meat may not be properly absorbed during a flare, which may make symptoms worse.
- Nuts and seeds: Included are those in nut butters. They may cause abdominal cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. When a person experiences a flare, even small seeds may trigger symptoms.
- Sugar alcohols: These can cause bloating, diarrhea, and gas. Sugar alcohol is in many sugar free gums and candies, some fruit juices, and various ice cream.
- Fructose sugar: This can be poorly absorbed causing increased gas, cramping, and diarrhea. Check the label for things like high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, honey, and molasses, as these all contain fructose.
- Many vegetables: These are often high in fiber, which can be hard to digest, causing bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps. Stringy vegetables like celery are similar. Other gas-producing vegetables include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Cooked vegetables are better tolerated than raw.
- Spicy foods: These include buffalo wings, hot sauces, and hot peppers. They may cause diarrhea in many people. For people with ulcerative colitis, hot and spicy foods may trigger or worsen a flare.
- Gluten: This is found in wheat, rye and barley and can sometimes trigger symptoms in ulcerative colitis, Although oats do not contain gluten, they have a similar protein that can cross-react in individuals sensitive to gluten. Oats are also often processed in the same factory space as wheat.