Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's, and Diet

Updated on September 29, 2018
angela_michelle profile image

At 17, Angela was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. At 20, her colon was removed. She has a passion to share her knowledge of the disease.

A yummy vegetable basket is a great source of fiber. Unfortunately fiber is not a great choice if you are in a flare-up.
A yummy vegetable basket is a great source of fiber. Unfortunately fiber is not a great choice if you are in a flare-up. | Source

Diet and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Diet is a very important aspect of keeping Crohn's and ulcerative colitis under control, yet we need to be careful falling for all the different diets that claim amazing results. Unfortunately, even the greatest diet will not cure any inflammatory bowel disease. There is no cure for Crohn's, and although surgery to remove the entire large intestine is thought of as a cure for ulcerative colitis is not without its downfalls.

I personally had my entire colon removed after a near-fatal bout of it. Since then, I have learned a lot about my food sensitivities that had I been more aware of these issues, may have changed the course of the disease. Although it did not stop my ulcerative colitis, my other inflammatory diseases, asthma and arthritis, are much more in control now. Although even with the strictest watch on your diet, sometimes medicinal and physician help is necessary.

Drink Lots of Water

Hydration is very important, especially when you are in a flare-up.
Hydration is very important, especially when you are in a flare-up. | Source

Stay Hydrated

More important than any food you eat is what you drink. Whether you have constant diarrhea or constipation, water is essential. Having plenty of liquids is important as your body needs water in order to most efficiently function since the majority of your body is made up of water.

If you find that you have a lot of diarrhea with your constipation than you want to drink fluids that contain electrolytes. When your body becomes low on electrolytes, you will begin to feel sluggish and light headed. Some great choices that contain electrolytes such as Pedialyte, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.

Each person is different. How much water you need to consume depends on many factors. Your best clues are paying attention to whether your lips get chapped easily, your eyes feel dry, and if several hours have passed without urinating. With any of these cues, you can be sure that you are not receiving adequate water.

Food Sensitivity and Inflammatory Diseases

In recent years as food has become industrialized, more and more people have found themselves with inflammatory diseases, especially ulcerative colitis and Crohn's. More and more people have found that their bodies have built an intolerance to certain foods. Some of the most common are gluten, wheat, egg, and milk sensitivities. I myself have found that my body is sensitive or allergic to wheat, milk, yeast, and mushrooms. Once I cut out each of these, I found I no longer had trouble with acne, joint pain, asthma attacks, nor pouchitis, which is the irritation of the lining of my modified digestive system.

There are many ways to find out if you are sensitive to these. The first is an elimination diet. I would suggest being very regimented if you choose this approach, otherwise, you may misdiagnose your food allergies. There are blood tests that you can go to the doctor for that test for food allergies. Unfortunately, these tests will only look for one type of antigen, which is the most reactive. There are several others that can cause milder allergic reactions that manifest themselves as inflammatory issues. A third way to detect these is to talk to a doctor that tests for what is commonly known as food sensitivities.

I was able to detect my sensitivity to wheat by eliminating it from my body, but would not have found the other allergens had I not gone to a holistic doctor who tested my blood. For one, it never occurred to me to eliminate mushrooms, I did not even think to cut out yeast, and I loved milk so much I was unwilling until I saw the severity of my sensitivity on the graph.

Common Food Irritants for IBDs

Each person is going to have different food sensitivities, but there are certain foods that are irritant to all those who have an IBD, but some people are more sensitive than others. Preservatives and other chemicals can irritate even healthy digestive systems, which is why there is an increasing push for people to eat "organic" foods.

Another "food" that is a known to aggravate the digestive system is caffeine. Caffeine speeds up the digestive system, which causes an increase in bowel movements. This may benefit you if you are constipated, but very bothersome if you have diarrhea.

Role of Fiber in Diet

Fiber is an extremely important component of your diet. Although it is important to recognize when you should be eating it and when you should not. When you are in remission, it is important to increase your intake of fibrous foods such as bran, apples, and salads. Your colon is much like a muscle that needs to firm to stay healthy. By eating fibrous foods this allows your colon to be exercised and cleansed.

Ironically, what helps you remain in remission should be avoided at any notice of any ulcerative colitis or Crohn's symptoms. Both of these diseases cause tears in the lining of your intestines. By eating fibrous foods while these tears are present, you are not allowing them to be healed. The fiber brushes against them aggravating them with each passing not allowing them to heal, causing more irritation, resulting in more diarrhea or constipation and more bleeding. It’s best to stay on a low fiber diet when in a flare-up.

Don't Give Food a Bad Name Because It Made You Sick Before

Keep in mind, that just because your stomach got upset after you ate a particular food does not necessarily mean that you are sensitive to it. Most foods, especially processed foods are so complex that it is tricky to know exactly what caused a flare-up. Be careful about avoiding foods indefinitely after an irritation, because if you reacted due to bread, it could be the wheat, the yeast, or even something in the processing. Cutting out all breads could do more damage than good, as even gluten has great vitamins and it should not be cut out unless you are certain you are sensitive to it.

This is a common mistake people do that suffer from these diseases and end up restricting their diet so severely, they stop ingesting enough nutrients from food, or rather enough variety of foods. By missing certain nutrients your body may actually become sicker with these diseases because they lack a foundation to fight against flare-ups.

Don’t be afraid to try a food that previously caused you problems. You may find that it does affect your stomach one month, then not the next. The reason for this is unknown. Although if you find it irritates it after you try to put it back in your diet, there may be a possible food allergy and it should be avoided.

Citation

  • “Crohn's & Colitis.” What Is Crohn's Disease | Causes of Crohn's | Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/diet-and-nutrition/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwxbzdBRCoARIsACzIK2kCyHZKIo50BzwFHGqLKTKLwbc0JiViWYpCG154rpVdxAgGQriONWUaAnQXEALw_wcB.
  • Scott, Jennifer Acosta. “Top Strategies for Eating Fiber With Crohn's.” Stroke Center - EverydayHealth.com, Everyday Health, 6 Mar. 2017, www.everydayhealth.com/crohns-disease/diet/managing-dietary-fiber-with-crohns-disease/.

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz

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      • profile image

        Colleen H (colleenbean) 

        5 years ago

        Hi -- I just saw your comment to my blog on a "cure for UC" from 3 years ago. (I didn't even know it had been posted on hub pages. ) You said that diet isn't a cure for everyone...and I have to say I hope you are wrong but I really don't know. I am learning more all the time and seeing that there are some really sick kids out there. I just wanted to say thanks for this post...we learned the hard way to not eat fruit/veggie smoothies during a flareup recently! My daughter is 17 and had her first flare after 9 years last fall. She went into remission in Jan. after eating lots of salmon, cooked veggies and low fiber. Unfortunately she started to flare a few days ago, so she is back to eating super healthy. I just wish I could find a GI that understood the role of nutrition with the disease. She hasn't been on meds for years. If anyone knows of a good ped GI in the Twin Cities area let me know!

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        6 years ago from United States

        I also now have severe nutrient malnurishments. (I know that doesn't quite make sense, but you get the gist). You added some really great comments. I actually have also recently heard about the connection with gluten, but not about papaya. Interesting. I really need to update this article. I've been so busy as of late. Thank you for adding your own knowledge!

      • profile image

        Mari86 

        6 years ago from California originally

        Hello...I have UC and wanted to tell you how I find gluten and sugars to irritate my GI. I really feel that celiac is so close to UC and Crohns in some way. I have also been reading about papaya and how it is an anti-inflammatory. And for all those that have UC, watch your calcium...I now have osteoporosis (and I am not even 50 yet!) because my colon, when inflamed, could not absorb minerals, vitamins, nutrients. Also juicing is great when you feel raw veggies may be too much.

        Thank you for your hub...

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        6 years ago from United States

        That sounds like good advice for all people, not just those with uc! :)

      • profile image

        reflux 

        6 years ago from USA

        Eating with ulcerative colitis should be based on a well-balanced diet that's high in protein, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, and good fats. Such a diet will provide you with energy and keep you well. Alcohol,caffeine,spicy food, sauces,seeds and carbonated beverages should be avoided.

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        8 years ago from United States

        I am so glad to hear that the naturopathic route worked for you. I'm trying to live a more healthy lifestyle now. I tried doing it while I was sick, but by the time I tried anything, I think my body was too far gone. I'm healthy and happy now, and that's all that matters. :) Thanks for stopping by!

      • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

        Pamela Kinnaird W 

        8 years ago from Maui and Arizona

        I read your Crohn's Disease hub first and now this one. I am sorry to read of the serious effects this disease has had on you. All those surgeries! I experienced much of Crohn's during the early 1990s. I'm still not 100% well, but I'm pretty good. I went the naturopathic route.

        Great writing, Angela Michelle.

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        8 years ago from United States

        Very true Garnet, I didn't know that until later in my symptoms, so I wanted to make sure others knew it as well!

      • GarnetBird profile image

        Gloria Siess 

        8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

        Good job--many feel fiber cures everything, but when it irritates the colon, it can make symptoms worse.

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        8 years ago from United States

        Thank you Pamela, I hope so. :)

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        8 years ago from Sunny Florida

        Very informative hub. I know it will help someone with these diseases.

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        8 years ago from United States

        Thank you Aunt Barb! Actually I should probably add that in the article. I know they do say, spicy in is spicy out, so I'm guessing even if we're not feeling it, it's spicty all the way down.

      • Barbara Kay profile image

        Barbara Badder 

        8 years ago from USA

        By the way, your hubs on this subject are excellent.

      • Barbara Kay profile image

        Barbara Badder 

        8 years ago from USA

        With Crohns avoiding spicy foods often helps when having a flare and for some avoiding it all of the time can help.

      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        8 years ago from United States

        I'm glad people are learning so much. I just hope those who suffer from the disease can find what they need from these websites!

      • Mentalist acer profile image

        Mentalist acer 

        8 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

        I've been learning a lot about this condition from your Hubs angela,keep up the great work!

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