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Are There Foods to Avoid as Part of a Diet for Ulcerative Colitis?

Healthcare providers recommend that people with ulcerative colitis avoid foods that seem to worsen symptoms. Because each person is different, it's important for you to take an active role in finding out which, if any, foods tend to make your symptoms worse.
Avoiding these foods and eating a nutritious diet may help control your symptoms, but these healthy choices will probably need to be made for life. If you are able to control your disease by changing the foods you eat, you may not need to take medications.
Some people with ulcerative colitis find that the following foods seem to make their symptoms worse:
  • Dairy products
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, some teas, and some soft drinks
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Certain raw fruits and vegetables, especially broccoli, cabbage, apples, and carrots.
If raw fruits and vegetables cause you problems, you may want to try them cooked. Or, you can try to find other fruits and vegetables that don't make your symptoms worse.
Other foods that make ulcerative colitis symptoms worse in some people include:
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit juices
  • Beans
  • Onions
  • Artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol or mannitol
  • High-fat foods, such as butter, red meat, avocados, nuts, and fried foods.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals may also help you feel better.
What should you do if you think certain foods are making your symptoms worse? The first thing you should do is keep a food diary. After a month, you may have some idea about which food could be provoking symptoms. You could then try eliminating that food from your diet for two weeks to see what happens. Don't cut out a whole food category, however, and make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals that this food provides from other sources. It is also important to let your healthcare provider know that you are doing this.
You may be wondering, "Why not just cut out the food and see if my symptoms get better?" It may be tempting to conclude that ulcerative colitis symptoms get better or worse because of what was added or eliminated from the diet the day or week before. However, the unpredictable ups and downs of ulcerative colitis make it hard to establish a relationship between diet and disease.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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