How Effective Is Cabbage Juice for Ulcerative Colitis?

Plus Other Juicing Recipes to Try

Ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), causes inflammation in the large intestine. This can lead to ulcers in the lining of the colon that bleed, as well as symptoms of pain and diarrhea.

The connection between ulcerative colitis and diet is not well understood. But until more is known, people living with IBD need guidance on diet to help with their symptoms.

Red cabbage juice in a glass, along with raw cabbage, apples, and lime

Madeleine_Steinbach / Getty Images

Some people turn to making changes to their diet. Talking to your healthcare team and working with a dietitian is the best way to navigate diet.

In some cases, adding fruits and vegetables to the diet via blending or juicing might be recommended. Cabbage juice is one addition to an ulcerative colitis diet that some people may be considering.

Benefits

Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is recommended for overall health. Eating cruciferous vegetables, which includes cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale, may help reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases. The reason is the many beneficial nutrients these foods contain.

For some people with ulcerative colitis, however, eating fruits and vegetables when the disease is active may increase symptoms. Cooking, blending, and juicing fruits and vegetables might help in making them easier to eat.

Cabbage is known for being a good source of the nutrients potassium, folate, and vitamin K. This vegetable also contains calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

The various types of cabbage also contain antioxidants. Red cabbage contains the highest amounts when compared to other cabbage varieties. Anti-inflammatory activity was found to be higher in Chinese, Savoy, and green varieties, and lower in red cabbage.

There is some evidence that cabbage may help treat ulcers in animal models, but there is no good evidence yet that it works in humans. There is also no evidence that specifically shows that cabbage juice is helpful for people who live with ulcerative colitis.

How It Works

Extracting the juices from fruits and vegetables is called juicing. Juicing may be a way to get more fresh foods into the diet when coping with a flare-up.

The process of breaking down foods into juice may remove some of the fiber from the food. Fiber helps in feeling full after eating, but it can be a problem for some people when there is inflammation in their digestive system.

Juicing machines can be helpful in making fruit and vegetable juices at home from fresh ingredients. There are different types of juicing machines:

  • A cold press juicer is used to squeeze fresh foods to extract their juices. This method of juicing with fresh ingredients may help preserve many of the important nutrients and compounds in the food.
  • A centrifugal juicing machine breaks down foods with a blade. The resulting juice is separated out from the remaining pulp, or solids. Using this type of juicer may help keep the vitamins and minerals from fresh foods.
  • A household blender might also be used to break down fresh fruits and vegetables and make juice. One study showed that grape juice created with a blender was less nutrient-dense than the juice created using juicers.

However, a study of several fruits and vegetables showed that there was no difference in the amount of nutrients between the three juicing methods.

Duration

The goal should always be to get back to a regular diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables. For that reason, consuming a low-fiber diet that contains juiced foods for a long period of time is not generally recommended.

People who live with ulcerative colitis should work with their healthcare team and ideally a dietitian to come up with a diet plan that takes the current state of the disease into account. A low-fiber diet should be expanded as the ulcerative colitis goes into remission.

What to Eat

There are various types of cabbage available. All forms of cabbage will contain beneficial vitamins and nutrients. Raw red cabbage contains more beta carotene, potassium, and vitamins C and A. Raw green cabbage contains more folate and vitamin K.

Cooking Tips

A blender can be used at home to make fresh cabbage juice. When shopping for cabbage, look for one with leaves that are crisp and not wilted. Also, look to ensure leaves are not damaged and that the head is compact and not split.

What you’ll need to make cabbage juice:

  • Knife
  • Strainer
  • Cutting board
  • Blender
  • Storage container(s)

Cooked cabbage may be easier to juice when using a blender, although some people may prefer to try blending it raw. A simple method for creating cabbage juice with a blender uses these steps: 

  1. With a sharp knife, roughly chop the cabbage head into chunks.
  2. Add the chopped cabbage to a pot of boiling water on the stove.
  3. Boil until the leaves are somewhat softened.
  4. Let the water and cabbage cool.
  5. Put the cabbage and the water into the blender.
  6. Blend on slow speed for a minute or two, until the water starts to become the color of the cabbage.
  7. Increase the speed to the highest setting for about 10 seconds or until most of the large pieces are blended.
  8. Optional: Pour everything into a container with a lid and let sit overnight or up to 72 hours for fermentation. (It may expand in volume; be sure to use a container that’s large enough to accommodate.)
  9. Use the strainer to remove any large cabbage pieces.
  10. Add any additional desired flavorings.

If you are using a juicing machine to make cabbage juice, follow the directions that come with the appliance.

Modifications

Adding other vegetables or fruits can help make cabbage juice more palatable. Adding juiced celery, cucumber, or carrots will give cabbage juice a milder taste. For a sweeter flavor, try adding juiced apples, pears, or melon.

People with ulcerative colitis should avoid adding fruits that contain small seeds, or they should carefully strain seeds out before drinking.

Considerations

Vitamin K is helpful in getting blood to clot in the body, which prevents bleeding too much. For people who are prone to blood clots, it may be recommended to avoid significant vitamin K in the diet.

Those who take blood thinners will want to check with their healthcare team on whether or not they should avoid foods like cabbage, which are high in vitamin K.

Cabbage contains substances called goitrogens (such as thiocyanate and goitrin). These compounds have an effect on the thyroid gland and may prevent the uptake of iodine in the thyroid.

So far there is no good evidence that eating cabbage can lead to thyroid problems. However, people with hypothyroidism may want to talk to their healthcare professional about any effect that cabbage may have on their condition.

Dietary Restrictions

Cabbage is a food that is high in FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates found in some foods which have been studied in relation to certain digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Foods high in FODMAPs may cause some people to experience bloating, gas, pain, nausea, and diarrhea. People who are following a low-FODMAP diet should take care when incorporating cabbage juice.

Cabbage Juice vs. Other Juices

People with ulcerative colitis may consider a variety of fruit and vegetable juices. Juices and smoothies may be helpful when coping with a flare-up. However, they are not meant to be consumed exclusively for a long period of time.

One older study looked at wheatgrass juice for ulcerative colitis. In the randomized trial, some patients were given 100 milliliters of the juice for four weeks and others were given a placebo.

The researchers saw less disease activity, rectal bleeding, and abdominal pain in the group that drank the wheatgrass. Some criticisms of the study noted that four weeks is too short a time to know if results are lasting and that some patients did drop out.

Other fruits and vegetables may be considered for juicing. There is not much evidence about how juices affect ulcerative colitis. The key is to go slow when adding juices to the diet—an adjustment period may be needed.

Commercial juices often contain added sugar and other additives that may not be beneficial. Be sure to check labels when purchasing.

It’s always important to talk with your healthcare team about how juices may affect ulcerative colitis. If on a restricted fiber or another medical diet, be sure to ask which juices are allowed.

Summary

Cabbage juice contains a variety of healthy nutrients and is low in fiber. However, there is no research that supports it having any specific benefits for ulcerative colitis. When you have ulcerative colitis, discuss any changes to diet with your healthcare team.

A Word From Verywell

The effect that diet has on ulcerative colitis is not well understood. However, many people who live with the disease are interested in creating the diet that’s right for them. At times, eating a diet lower in fiber might be recommended.

It’s important to remember, however, that there is no evidence that points to cabbage juice being especially beneficial for, or as an adjunct treatment for, the inflammation that’s caused by ulcerative colitis. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does juicing improve or worsen ulcerative colitis symptoms?

    Diet in ulcerative colitis is extremely individualized. Some people will find that juicing fruits and vegetables may be easier on their digestive system. Others may find that there is no difference.

    Under the guidance of a healthcare professional, adding juices to the diet can be a way to take in nutrients while avoiding fiber that may cause symptoms. However, the goal of treatment should always be to get back to a healthful diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Can cabbage juice help with stomach ulcers?

    There is only weak evidence that cabbage juice may be beneficial for stomach ulcers. Studies in animal models show that it may be beneficial, but there is no good evidence that it works in humans.

  • How long should you try cabbage juice for ulcerative colitis?

    Fruit and vegetable juices can be an addition to a healthful diet. People with ulcerative colitis need to take care that they are not missing vital nutrients from their diet because that could lead to vitamin deficiencies. While eating a healthful diet, cabbage juice could be added as long as it is palatable. 

  • Which juices are the best for digestion?

    Other juices often discussed for digestion include cranberry, kale, and celery. Juices can be an addition to a healthful diet, but there is no good evidence that they will aid digestion or help lessen inflammation.

    Cranberry juice may have added sugars to make it more palatable, so it’s important to read labels when purchasing prepackaged forms. Celery juice can lead to digestive symptoms in some people, so it should be used with care. Kale juice may be similar to cabbage in its effects and nutrients.

  • Does cabbage have fiber?

    Raw cabbage does have fiber. One cup of cabbage has about 10% of the recommended amount of daily dietary fiber, but the fiber content is lost during the juicing process. This can make it more palatable to people living with ulcerative colitis who are struggling with the fiber content of fruits and vegetables during a flare-up.

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