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Effects of Food on Ulcerative Colitis

Author:   Peter Sedesse MD

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis, closely related to Crohn’s disease, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. This should not be confused with the temporary condition known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome that is caused mainly by diet. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis which are permanent inflammatory bowel diseases. The symptoms can be intensified or reduced by avoiding or eating certain foods. Abdominal pain, excessive gas and diarrhea are the major ulcerative colitis symptoms. There is also typically bleeding into the intestines causing blood to appear in the stool as a result of the ulcerative nature. The blood is undigested giving it a bright red appearance because it originates in the upper large intestines and lower small intestines most often.

The uniqueness of the individual’s situation and the extreme effect on the food tolerance should be understood when discussing the effect that meal plans and foods have on Ulcerative colitis. The general guidelines are below, but it is important to accurately document the symptom changes whenever the diet changes in order to see the correlation between the symptoms and diet. Narrowing of the intestines can be caused by ulcerative colitis and greatly impacts the severity of other symptoms, this reaction can be unique to the individual is greatly influences what foods, in particular, give that individual the most severe symptoms.

Importance of Soluble fiber and Insoluble Fiber on Ulcerative Colitis

It is vital that those suffering from this disease understand the differences between insoluble and soluble fiber. Both fiber types are good with health benefits for those that do not have this condition; however those with ulcerative colitis are likely to have problems from insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber keeps its normal form when passing through the intestinal tract whereas soluble fiber changes to a gel like substance entering the small intestine as it moves through the entire intestinal tract. Those with ulcerative colitis can have a flare up when irritation is caused by insoluble fiber’s roughness. Soluble fiber can help to prevent flare ups since it is smoother making it gentler on the intestines. The outer layers and skin of vegetables and fruits such as corn or apples and wheat contain large amounts of insoluble fiber. Foods like oatmeal and the “meaty” portions of vegetables and fruits contain soluble fiber.  Drastically decreasing insoluble fiber while making sure to eat foods high in soluble fiber will help reduce the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

Dairy Producs and Ulcerative Colitis

Dairy products are another important food type to take into consideration when discussing ulcerative colitis and other intestinal issues. When and how dairy products are eaten is an important aspect when it comes to ulcerative colitis. There is typically no association between symptom impacts when dairy products are consumed as part of large meals. However, a rapid flare up can occur if a large glass of milk is drunk between meals. Reactions associated with dairy products is typically consistent for individuals so when a flare up is caused once by a glass of milk it is likely to result in a flare up later.

High fat and processed foods in patients with Ulcerative Colitis

There are also unhealthy foods that should be avoided altogether as with most diseases affecting the intestines. Meals containing high amounts of processed foods and those with a high fat content should be avoided. The symptoms of intestinal diseases are typically increased a great deal by foods high in fat and there is no exception for ulcerative colitis. Recent evidence revealed that symptoms can be reduced a great deal by oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel.

Closely related to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is classified as an irritable bowel disease. Abdominal pain, bloody stool and diarrhea are among the major symptoms. There are a number of meals and foods that have an effect on the diseases symptoms but they are distinct to individuals in most cases. The colon can be irritated by insoluble fiber, although the inflammation can be soothed by certain fatty acids and soluble fiber. Large doses of dairy products should be avoided unless they are included as part of a meal with non-dairy foods in it. Recording meals and the symptoms they produce is vital to finding the link is the most important part to control this disease. Ulcerative colitis is very unique to each individual and only with accurate recordkeeping can a person´s reactions be determined.

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