Both Western and Chinese medicines recognize the importance of diet and its role in prevention and treatment of ulcerative colitis. Western medicine acknowledges dietary intake of certain factors (such as certain chemicals and drugs) may be linked to increased incidence of ulcerative colitis; Chinese medicine recognizes that dietary intake with excessive cold or raw food may injury the spleen and the stomach. Therefore, diet plays an important role in both prevent and effective treatment of the illness.

Food won’t prevent or cure IBD, but the right diet may diminish symptoms. The strategy is to focus on foods that reduce inflammation, to reestablish healthy bacteria in the gut and to pamper your intestinal tract. Keeping a food diary helps determine which foods trigger flare-ups and which seem to help.

Things to Avoid

  • Avoid any food which may trigger recurrence, such as certain chemicals, raw or cold food. Milk, cheese and other dairy products should be avoided especially if the patients have lactose intolerance.
  • Avoid sugar of all forms; avoid any wheat products especially during acute flare-ups.
  • High roughage food such as raw fruits or vegetables sometimes worsen intestinal obstruction and colic.
  • Alcohol should be avoided as it may be irritating to the stomach and the intestines.
  • Caffeine and carbonated drinks
  • Nuts, seeds, dried fruits
  • Spicy food may trigger certain nerve reactions in the digestive tract.
  • Certain over-the-counter or prescription antidiarrheal drugs may worsen the condition and create toxic megacolon.

What to Add

Everyone has different triggers; therefore it’s difficult to recommend certain types of food and/or supplements. In addition to avoiding the “wrong food,” it is equally important to have adequate calorie and fluid intake as malnutrition and dehydration are common problems associated with ulcerative colitis.  In general, two strategies that work are:

  • A bland, low-fiber may best during acute flares.
  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals a day.

All of the following recommendations should not be taken unless supervised by a qualified health care provider.

  • Oral iron supplements for those with frequent bleeding.
  • Folic acid: Many people who have ulcerative colitis have low levels of folic acid in their blood.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil: DO NOT take high doses of fish oil if you take blood-thinning medication.
  • Probiotics: Consult your doctor to be sure probiotics are appropriate for your case.
  • Vitamin D: is necessary to maintain strong bones. People with ulcerative colitis, especially those who take corticosteroids, often have low levels of vitamin D and are at risk for osteoporosis.
  • Calcium: is also needed for strong bones. Ask your doctor if you need a calcium supplement.
  • N-acetyl glucosamine: Preliminary research suggests that N-acetyl glucosamine supplements or enemas may improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Psyllium seeds: Psyllium is a type of insoluble fiber, and may be irritating to some people, especially during flares. Some people may have better results using soluble fiber, such as flax seed or oat bran, in combination with or instead of psyllium.
  • Boswellia: Boswellia has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Curcumin or turmeric: This has anti-inflammatory properties. People with gallbladder disease or gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), hormone-related cancers, or people who are taking blood-thinning medications, should not take curcumin without first consulting with their doctors.
  • Slippery elm: is a demulcent (protects irritated tissues and promotes their healing). Women who may be pregnant should never take slippery elm.
  • Marshmallow: is a demulcent and emollient. Avoid marshmallow if you have diabetes.
  • Chamomile: is often used to soothe digestive tract. It is usually taken as a tea. Chamomile can cause allergic reactions in some people, particularly those who are sensitive to ragweed. Medicine