Information for those with Ulcerative Colitis

The Effects of Diet on Ulcerative Colitis

There is fairly high confidence that there is little connection between poor diet and Ulcerative Colitis/Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - caused almost entirely by a poor diet high in processed foods and low in dietary fibre.
In spite of this diet has a large part to play in minimizing the effects of Ulcerative Colitis - and in the treatment of flare-ups. Care must be taken though with Colitis - as a good diet for a person with colitis differs slightly from that of a person without colitis.

In addition to the information below there is a wealth of peoples own experiences in the diet and lifestyle area of our forum.

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Fibre - and Ulcerative Colitis

There is much confusion in the advice given to people about dietary fibre and ulcerative colitis. To understand this properly it is important to appreciate there are two distinct types of fibre. One - soluble fibre should be encouraged when suffering from colitis - the other - insoluble fibre tends to inflame colitis and should be avoided.

Insoluble Fibre - Detrimental for Colitis

Insoluble fibre is generally bad for ulcerative colitis/IBD sufferers. This is the type of fibre that most people would associate with a high fibre diet. Examples of this type of fibre include -

  • Wheat bran/wholemeal bread/bran flakes etc.
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet corn
  • Skins peel of vegetables such as apples and grapes

This type of fibre passes through the whole of the digestive tract without being digested - and hence has a tenancy to adhere to the wall of the colon when it is inflamed. This irritates the colon - and hence will aggravate any colitis. As a rough guide if you can see particles/undigested matter in the stool this is insoluble fibre.

Soluble Fibre - Beneficial for Colitis

Soluble fibre is very helpful for colitis and differs from insoluble fibre in that it is broken down/digested in the large intestine/colon. This produces a soft stool and good motions - but does not produce the type of particles that adhere to the bowel wall and cause inflammation. Good examples of soluble fibre include

  • The body of fruits - e.g. peeled apples, peeled pears
  • Peeled Vegetables - e.g. peeled potatoes and carrots
  • Oat bran - e.g. porridge/Ready Brek
  • White rice

Fish Oils and Ulcerative Colitis

Fish oils - especially from oily fish such as sardines and sild have been shown to have a beneficial effect on colitis. This is because they help to reduce inflammation generally - and they also have a topical effect on the bowel as they pass through. In order to include fish oils in the diet it is recommended that actual fish be used rather than dietary supplements. Sardines especially are very cheap, nutritional - and contain large amounts of the required oils.

Dairy products and Ulcerative Colitis

Those that suffer from ulcerative colitis should avoid excessive amounts of dairy products such as cheese/cream etc. This doesn't mean that they have to be avoided totally - just some common sense used. I would suggest that probably about 2-3 ounces in a day is about the limit. Quantities beyond this are likely to lead to lactose in the colon - which will encourage unhelpful bacteria and inflammation.

Foods to Avoid when you have active Ulcerative Colitis (Flare Up)

There are a number of foods which are best avoided during a flare up of Ulcerative Colitis - or when Colitis is active (i.e. blood or mucous in the stools). These are mainly foods that either include a high amount of insoluble fibre - or very high amounts of dairy fats-

Sweet Corn
High Bran fibre items - such as wholemeal bread, and high fibre cereal
Raw onions
Tomatoes - especially the seeds
Soya Protein (TVP)
Onions - Especially raw onions
Cheese/cream (tends to cause excess acid/irritation in the gut)


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