Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease characterized by inflammation and ulcer formation in the lining of the large intestine, including the colon and rectum. This condition together with other diseases of the large intestine, like Crohn’s disease, is referred to inflammatory bowel disease. These chronic diseases may persist for years together, affecting the general health of the patient.
The most common symptoms of this disease include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and intestinal cramps. The patients may also have extreme weakness, lack of hunger, and anemia. Joint pain, swelling, and liver problems are also noted as symptoms of this condition. The actual cause of this disease is not yet fully known. Many experts are of the belief that it is caused by the exaggerated response of the immune system to certain triggers.
A healthy lifestyle and diet are the two important ways for controlling the condition. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis often lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, malnutrition, fatigue, and anemia. The ideal diet plan for controlling the symptoms will include a lot of healthy components, like complex carbohydrates, proteins, and whole grains. This ensures a continuous supply of energy without sudden peaks. These can be in the form of meat, fish, low-fat dairy products, lots of fruits and vegetables and cereals. Vegetarians can avoid meat and fish and replace them with soy-based products and dairy products.
Studies show that food may not cause inflammation in this disease, but can worsen the symptoms of the condition. Foods that may result in irregular bowel movements should be completely avoided. Other foods that may trigger diarrhea or abdominal cramps, like caffeine or raw vegetables, may be limited in the diet. If high fiber content in the diet seems to trigger diarrhea, one may opt for low-fiber foods to improve the intestine transit time and reduce the frequency of bowel movements.
Some of the common triggers known to cause or worsen symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- Beans and other legumes
- Dried fruits
- High-fiber foods
- Certain nuts and butter
- Raw vegetables
- Spicy foods
- Refined sugar
- Sugar-free gums
- Carbonated beverages
People with this condition often lose weight considerably and have nutritional deficiencies which may be of concern. They are prone to have anemia and weakness as absorption of nutrients is compromised. Health issues may result from inadequate amounts of vitamin B 12 and folic acid obtained from the diet. Thus, taking nutritional supplements may become necessary, but always do so only after consultation with your physician and dietitian. Multivitamin and folic acid supplements are often recommended for people with this condition.