Diet and Nutrition

How Going Vegan Can Be Helpful for Ulcerative Colitis

How Going Vegan Can Be Helpful for Ulcerative Colitis

Managing UC can be quite stressful. Often, this diagnosis means that people need to get to know their body all over again.

They have to learn what foods to avoid and what foods are helpful. For many, this means that they have to weed out foods that were previously their favorites.

The internet is full of information that can be misleading or just inaccurate. However, sometimes, learning from people who have gone through the same thing you are going through can be just the trick you needed. Everyone is different, but there is likely someone out there who has benefited from the same suggestions that may help you.

One article claims that eating a vegan diet can help people prevent and manage a UC flare up. Managing flare ups is often trial and error, and sometimes even providers are at a loss as to how to advise their patients. A flare-up can involve diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, rectal bleeding and more. These flare-ups can be extremely frustrating as they tend to impact people’s daily life. As they frequently come with little to no warning, they can make individuals feel like they have no control over their lives. Diet can play a huge role in prevention and management.

Can veganism really benefit ulcerative colitis?

We hear all the time how going vegan is better for you and the environment. Many say it can give you more energy, especially for those with chronic illness. It may not be a diet that is appealing to our cheese lovers of the world, but perhaps there is some truth to it. Dairy can be a bit too harsh on the digestive tract for many people, even those without UC, and meat takes a lot of work for the body to digest. For people with UC, these foods can be even more harsh on the body. Avoiding dairy and meat can give your digestive tract a much-needed rest.

One article also suggests that eliminating foods that contribute to inflammation is also key. This makes sense as UC is an inflammatory disease, but what are foods that contribute to inflammation? The Arthritis Foundation highlights some ingredients that are considered inflammatory. Since both arthritis and UC are autoimmune inflammatory diseases, these foods could have an effect on both conditions. The ingredients that they discuss are commonly found in processed foods such as breads and cereals, as well as animal product and dairy products. They include saturated and trans fats, sugars, gluten, and more. Alcohol is another product that can cause inflammation.

Harvard Health Publishing highlights foods that fight inflammation. These are ingredients that people with UC could incorporate into their diet to help with their symptoms. They list tomatoes, olive oil, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries, and oranges as vegan friendly anti-inflammatory foods. They say that coffee has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, but sometimes coffee can be a little harsh on the digestive tract, so it may be better to avoid during a flare up. When you are having a flare up you want to eat things that are going to be gentle on and calm down your colon. It is also important that you stay hydrated and keep putting nutrients in your body. The above mentioned anti-inflammatory foods can do just this. Additionally, sweet and white potatoes are nutrient powerhouses, can be eaten in a variety of ways, and are gentle on the digestive tract. Veganism is a relatively easy way to weed out the inflammatory foods and focus on foods that can help you during a flare up. All of these fruits and vegetables are also a great way to boost your immune system, which can help you maintain health while battling UC in the long run. Some people have success in managing their UC with diet alone. This can be great because then you do not have to deal with the side effects of immunosuppressive medications that people with UC are often prescribed.

Other ways to help with flare-ups

The Mayo Clinic also has a list of things that people with UC can do to help with flare ups. While diet can be a way to manage UC, they are adamant that there is no sound evidence that diet is what causes UC in the first place. Nonetheless, they also recommend that people who are in the midst of a flare up avoid dairy. So, again, going vegan may be a way for people to effectively manage their UC. Eliminating dairy can help reduce diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain.

Fiber can also be a problem for some people, and according to the Mayo Clinic, people with UC should not be afraid to cut it out during flare ups. Steering clear of nuts, fresh fruits, whole grains and veggies may help your symptoms, but this goes against a vegan diet. So, what should you do?

As mentioned before, a lot of the time it is trial and error. Listen to your body and be patient. Sometimes, it is just raw fruits and vegetables that can cause a problem. So, steaming or roasting them could make them more tolerable and still enable you to obtain the important nutrients that they offer.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner; we are all used to eating three main meals a day, but this is not the only way to consume your food. In fact, planned smaller meals consumed more frequently throughout the day could make you feel a bit better, and it is better for you than snacking without thinking.

Hydration is important, but you should not just drink anything that crosses your path. Water is your best friend and alcohol is your worst enemy. As much as you may love to go out for some drinks with some friends, alcohol can stimulate your intestines and make diarrhea worse. Drinks that include caffeine and sugar can do the same. So, be cautious with coffee, sodas, and processed juices.

While stress is not the cause of UC, it can certainly make it worse, along with making you miserable. Exercise is a great stress relief. Going outside and getting moving can relieve tension and depression. Just don’t force yourself to do a bunch of things that you don’t enjoy. Find physical activities that are enjoyable and not too physically challenging; you don’t want to overdo it!

Final thoughts

Ultimately, you are unique and should always listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to try something new like a vegan diet, but also talk to your provider about it beforehand so that you are making sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need. Make sure you speak with your doctor before undergoing any lifestyle change. If you are a part of any UC support groups, see what other people have found helpful. They may have some tips that help you avoid and manage flare ups as well!