Ulcerative Colitis Diet: Foods to Eat & Avoid (& Supplements)

Updated in February 2024

An ulcerative colitis diet can help to manage symptoms like reduced appetite, nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, changes in taste and fatigue.

There is currently no specific diet that can be recommended for everyone with ulcerative colitis. Therefore, you are advised to consult a registered dietitian who can create an individualized meal plan that is based on your symptoms and disease severity.

However, there are some general recommendations that can be followed that aim to prevent weight loss and nutritional deficiencies, as well as ensure general health and well-being.

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Foods to eat

To help reduce intestinal inflammation, balance gut bacteria and prevent new flare-ups, you are advised to eat several times throughout the day, in small portions and chewing the food well. You should eat meals that are simpoel to prepare, such as stews, steaming, roasting, and grilling. You should generally avoid frying foods or adding sauces.

There are no specific diets or foods to can prevent or cure colitis, however, some recommendations you can follow include:

1. Lean meats and fish

Eating protein is very important, as people with ulcerative colitis are pronte to lose muscle mass due to reduced nutrient absorption.

Therefore, during a colitis flare-up, it is important to increase your protein intake. You should aim for 1.2 to 1.5 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, a person weighing 60 kg should consume between 72 and 90 g of protein.

Proteins should be low in fat and great options include fish, tofu, eggs, skinless chicken or turkey. Red meats should be consumed a maximum of twice a week, and you should opt for leaner cuts, such as muscle, thigh or filet mignon.

2. Lactose-free dairy products

As some people may also have difficulty digesting lactose or have a lactose intolerance, you should opt for foods such as yogurt, milk and lactose-free cheeses.

People who do not have lactose intolerance can consume small portions of milk and dairy products with lactose, opting for products with a lower fat content. Yogurt or kefir are good options, as they are high in calcium and are rich in probiotics that help balance gut bacteria.

3. Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should be peeled, cored and prepared without seeds. Cooking them also help to facilitate their digestion and absorption.

Additionally, some vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower can increase gas in some people. Check-out a list of foods that cause more gas.

Some vegetables that can be consumed during a flare-up are: carrots, potatoes, asparagus, pumpkin, chayote and zucchini. Fuits that can be eaten include bananas, apples, pears and melon.

4. Natural condiments

To add flavor to your meals, you can use fresh or dehydrated natural aromatic herbs, such as parsley, oregano, rosemary, coriander or basil.

5. Healthy fats

Consuming good fats in small quantities is essential for those suffering from ulcerative colitis, as they act as natural anti-inflammatories and can help to prevent ulcerative colitis attacks. Great examples include extra virgin olive oil, linseed oil, avocado oil, and fish such as salmon, trout and sardines.

6. Water

Ulcerative colitis can cause diarrhea, leading to dehydration and, in some cases, constipation. Therefore, it is very important to increase your water intake, keeping your body hydrated.

You can also increase your fluids by opting for apple juice and ginger tea.

Also recommended: 10 Benefits of Drinking Water (with Healthy Recipes) tuasaude.com/en/benefits-of-drinking-water

7. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy that the body needs to carry out several functions. Great sources of carbs include white rice, tapioca, rice noodles or potatoes, for example.

However, you should avoid consuming complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole grain bread, quinoa, corn and whole grain pasta, as they contain a lot of fiber that can worsen colitis symptoms.

Food to avoid

When experiencing ulcerative colitis, you should avoid foods that increase inflammation and irritate the gut, such as:

  • High-fat foods: fried foods, margarine, butter, soybean oil, canola oil or corn oil
  • Caffeine: coffee, green tea, black tea, mate tea, cola and chocolate. These foods should be avoided during diarrhea attacks
  • Pepper and hot sauces
  • High fiber foods: seeds, popcorn, leafy and/or raw vegetables and fruits with skin 
  • Sweets in general: sugar, honey, ice cream, jellies, juices and mousses;
  • Processed meats: sausage, ham, mortadella, turkey breast, salami and bacon
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas and beans
  • Processed foods, such as packaged snacks, sweet and savory cookies, frozen ready-to-eat meals, such as lasagna and pizza, and fast food
  • Processed, ready-made seasonings, such as meat or chicken broth, soy sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise or salad dressings;
  • Alcohol

People with ulcerative colitis may also have a gluten intolerance. In these cases, it is advised to avoid foods such as cookies, cakes, biscuits, bread, toast, pasta and pizza dough made with rye or wheat.

Also recommended: 15 Gluten-Free Foods to Include in Your Diet (& Recipes)) tuasaude.com/en/gluten-free-foods

Furthermore, people with ulcerative colitis may also have a lactose intolerance, and it is also important to avoid foods such as milk, yogurt, butter, cream and ice cream.

Eating fiber

Fiber can cause problems in some people with active ulcerative colitis flare-ups. It can increase gas production, causing abdominal pain or diarrhea. Fiber is present in large quantities in raw vegetables and fruits, oilseeds, legumes and whole grains.

Most foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Cooking your food well, peeling fruits and vegetables, and removing any seeds can help to reduce fiber content in the food. It is important to remember that during an active ulcerative colitis flare-up, you should ingest fiber in small amounts to prevent worsening of symptoms.

Supplements for ulcerative colitis

When treating colitis, your registered dietitian may recommend supplements, such as vitamin D, calcium, folic acid and iron. These can help to prevent nutritional deficiencies or weight loss.

Probiotics may also be prescribed, as they help regulate intestinal flora and improve digestion, prevent diarrhea and constipation, and reduce gas formation. Learn more about the benefits of probiotics and how to take them.

Another supplement that can be prescribed is omega-3 capsules, which help reduce inflammation in the body and improve the immune system. Be sure to speak to your doctor or registered dietitian before starting any supplements for ulcerative colitis.

Food tracking

The ulcerative colitis diet should vary from person to person, which is why it is necessary to monitor which foods worsen digestion, and cause pain, diarrhea, constipation or gas.

Patients with ulcerative colitis should keep a food diary, where you can write down all the foods you consumed during the day and any related symptoms. This will help you to identify which foods may cause mild discomfort and which should be completely avoided.

It is important to note that the foods that cause ulcerative colitis flare-ups may change over time. Therefore, it is important to start a new food diary if you experience a new flare-up so that your registered dietitian can adjust your diet.