Eating an Ulcerative Colitis Diet

Ulcerative colitis, a form of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), affects the large intestine (colon), which connects the small intestine and anus. This condition can lead to inflammation, sores, and ulcers in the colon’s lining.

Ulcerative colitis is a response to an overactive immune system. Certain foods can make the condition worse like foods and drinks with a lot of sugar, fried and greasy foods, carbonated drinks, alcohol, and high-fiber foods.

Recommended Food for Ulcerative Colitis

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Eating During a Flare-Up

Ulcerative colitis symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea and the urgent need to use the bathroom
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia

Over time, your symptoms may worsen, and you may have blood, mucus, and pus in your stool, acute cramping, fever, rashes, sores in your mouth, joint pain, red, sore eyes, and liver disease. 

When your symptoms return or become more severe, that’s known as a flare-up or flare. A flare-up can occur for several reasons, from missing, skipping, or taking the wrong dose of medication to eating foods that can irritate your stomach.

Ulcerative Colitis Doctor Discussion Guide

Doctor Discussion Guide Old Man

Foods to Eat

When experiencing a flare-up, the best foods to eat are those that provide sufficient amounts of nutrients without worsening your symptoms. Speak with your healthcare provider and a nutritionist to determine which foods are best to eat during a flare-up.

One way to find out about this is trying an elimination diet, which involves cutting out one type of food from your diet at a time while looking for a reduction in symptoms. 

Low-fiber fruit is recommended if you’ve had recent surgery or have strictures (when the intestine has narrowed due to scarring or inflammation), such as:

  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupes
  • Honeydew melons
  • Cooked fruit

Lean protein you can tolerate during a flare-up include:

  • Fish
  • Pork (lean cuts)
  • Poultry (white meat)
  • Soy 
  • Eggs
  • Tofu (firm)

Refined grains you may be able to tolerate include:

  • Sourdough
  • Gluten-free or potato bread
  • Pasta (white)
  • Rice (white)
  • Oatmeal

Noncruciferous vegetables (cooked, seedless, skinless) to eat include:

  • Asparagus tips
  • Cucumber
  • Potatoes
  • Squash

Foods to Avoid

During a flare-up, it's best to avoid foods that may cause bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. If you have a stricture or had recent surgery, certain foods may worsen your symptoms.

These foods may trigger symptoms and are hard to digest:

  • Fruits with skin and seeds like apples and raspberries
  • Raw green vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or any type of vegetable that needs to be peeled
  • Dairy products such as milk, soft cheese, cream cheese, specifically those with lactose
  • Nonabsorbable sugars like sweeteners found in sugar-free chewing gum, candy, ice cream, baked goods, some types of fruits and juice like pear, peach, and prune
  • All sugary foods and beverages
  • High-fat foods like butter, cream, fried foods, and margarine
  • Alcohol and caffeinated beverages
  • Spicy food

Eating During Remission

When you’ve entered a period of remission (when symptoms have tapered off), consult with your nutritionist about foods you can reintroduce back into your diet. During both flare-ups and remissions, it’s important to stay hydrated. Foods that will meet your nutritional needs and keep you hydrated include probiotics, high-fiber foods, lean protein, colorful fruits and vegetables, and calcium-rich foods.

Other Tips

With a condition like ulcerative colitis, you will need to be vigilant about what you eat. One way is to keep track of what you consume with a food journal. You can use a simple notebook and jot down what you ate during the day and the amounts. For a breakdown of calories but also nutrients, there are several apps you can use. 

Eat four to six small meals each day and use simple cooking techniques that include baking, boiling, broiling, grilling, poaching and steaming. Don’t forget to stay hydrated and drink slowly, but avoid using a straw which can lead to swallowing air and cause gas.  

When in doubt, contact your healthcare provider or your nutritionist. They’ll be able to answer any questions you may have about the specifics of your condition and provide recommendations to meet your nutritional needs. 

Having a chronic condition due to an overactive immune response may make you feel isolated from those who don't have the same condition. There are several online communities that you can join to speak with others who share similar symptoms. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation provides a directory of local resources, including events, support groups, and educational programs so you can connect with others.

Summary

You need to eat differently with ulcerative colitis, especially when you experience a flare-up. It's important to eat foods that will give you all the nutrients you need and avoid ones that will aggravate your symptoms. You can manage your condition and keep flare-ups at bay by staying hydrated and eating lean proteins, high-fiber grains, and colorful fruits and vegetables.

A Word From Verywell

Experiencing the various symptoms of ulcerative colitis can be painful, embarrassing, and frustrating. Not everyone is affected in the same way by the condition, and it will take time and a process of elimination to see which foods bring relief and which ones trigger symptoms. Once you have a definitive diagnosis, ask your healthcare provider to recommend a nutritionist you can work with to develop a plan that meets your nutritional needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much fiber should you eat with colitis? 

You will need to discuss the specific amount with your nutritionist. When you are experiencing a flare-up, it’s best that you eat a low-fiber diet, but when you are in remission, your nutritionist may suggest that you increase your fiber by eating more fiber-rich foods.

What foods trigger colitis?

There are several foods that may trigger your symptoms, including fatty and greasy foods, spicy foods, high-sugar foods, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages.

Are bananas good for colitis?

Bananas are recommended when you have a flare-up, but you also can enjoy them during remission. 

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Ulcerative colitis: Symptoms, treatment, living with it & diagnosis. Updated April 23, 2020.

  2. Crohn’s & Colitis. Managing Ulcerative Colitis Flare-ups.  

  3. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. What should I eat?

  4. Michigan Medicine. Swallowed air. Updated February 26, 2020.