Has ulcerative colitis (UC) taken over your life? Are you unsure of what to eat? Nothing about your diet seems to improve the quality of your life? Are you at the point where you just feel hopeless, drained and you just can’t take it anymore?
It’s okay, you’re not alone. So many with this disease experience the same thing as you. But there is hope. There are changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle that can help you feel better, lighten the stress load, and improve your daily quality of life. For a little inspiration here is how Karen’s life changed when she changed what she was eating.
What is ulcerative colitis and what triggers it?
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that occurs when the lining of the large intestines (colon), rectum or both become inflamed.
Inflammation causes tiny sores called ulcers that typically start in the rectum and work themselves up into the large intestine or colon. Ulcers cause bleeding and discharge of mucous and pus.
Many people experience severe issues with abdominal discomfort, the bowel moving it’s contents rapidly and emptying frequently, making life very unpredictable.
Unfortunately, the triggers for ulcerative colitis still remain unclear. From what research tells us the immune system undergoes an abnormal response to the colon. So to break it down for you the immune system is supposed to defend the body against any harmful invader such as bacteria and viruses. In people with UC the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. In this process genes, environment and the immune system can all play a role.
What symptoms might you experience?
Everyone is different and everyone experiences different symptoms whether they are mild or severe. The following is a list that you may have experienced:
- Abdominal pain
- Increased abdominal sounds
- Weight loss
- Rectal pain
- Bloody stools
Some other symptoms you might experience that are related to having a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis:
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Nausea and decreased appetite
- Eye inflammation
- Mouth sores
- Skin problems
Treatments that can improve your ulcerative colitis
Traditionally, treatments typically involve drug therapy or surgery. The overall goal of drug therapy is to reduce inflammation so your rectum and large intestine can heal and your symptoms will subside.
Nutrition and Ulcerative Colitis
The not so traditional treatment for ulcerative colitis is nutrition. Does improving your nutrition and finding what works for you mean that you can come off your drug therapy? Maybe not, but it does mean that you could possibly come off other medications for symptoms that are directly related to your UC such as anxiety medication, allergy medication, PPI medications, medications for diarrhea and the list goes on.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, nutrition does play a role. You will find that there are definitely foods that aggravate your UC and foods that help alleviate symptoms. The frustrating part, everyone is different and a lot of figuring out your foods is trial and error.
Do you continuously wonder what you should and should not eat during a flare?
- Keep it very simple, bland and easy to digest foods
- Keep it low fiber
- Use a clean protein powder such as Naked Nutrition
- Use bananas, applesauce, white potatoes (NO skin), rice even smooth grits can work
- Eat well cooked vegetables (nothing raw), avoid anything gas producing such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
- Try peeled cucumbers (have shown to help with digestion and bloating) and cooked carrots
- Try fish, shellfish, nut butters (smooth), eggs, tofu, pork tenderloin and white poultry meat
- Avoid dairy and instead try nut/hemp milks with minimal “gums”
- Gluten may be something you want to avoid if you feel better without it
- Drinking water throughout the day can help replace fluids lost with diarrhea (stay away from alcohol, caffeine and soda)
- Try anti-inflammatory spices such as cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cumin, lemon/lemon peel
- Bonus: Chew, chew, chew your food really good, take a good quality multi-vitamin (with minimal added ingredients), a good quality probiotic, you may need to replenish vitamin D and B12 and calcium if you don’t eat much or any dairy
Once you are past your flare then you can start slowly adding in foods that worked for you prior to your flare. Be conscious of what you are adding in and make sure it still works for you.
Stress and Ulcerative Colitis
There is scientific research suggesting that there is a gut-brain connection, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. These two organs are connected both physically and biochemically, in simple terms they are talking to one another.
Your stress whether short-term or chronic can induce changes in gastric secretions, gut motility, mucosal permeability, visceral sensitivity and mucosal blood flow. All of these are connected to your overall health. Experimental studies have even shown that stress can slow down normal small intestinal transit time, encourage overgrowth of bacteria, and even compromise the intestinal barrier leading to the development of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut syndrome.
If this does not convince you that stress is related to your gut issues then I’m not sure what will. So the most important thing to understand about stress is how you can manage it. Easier said than done, right? If you have difficulty finding what works for you here are a few ideas to help you formulate some ideas:
- Move: movement/exercise actually changes the bacteria in your gut and increases good bacteria. In only 6 weeks movement/exercise can have a positive impact on your microbiome. This can provide a boost to your mental health.
- Journaling: this activity can help you express your frustrations, sorrows, loss of hope, it allows you to relieve stress and anxiety. In turn it can help you improve mental clarity and gain control of your emotions and help improve your overall mental health.
- Friendships: connect with a friend old or new who gets you and your disease. Use your relationship with them to feed some positivity into your life. Talk about happy times you have shared together and how you look forward to more of those times in the future.
- Cooking: take your frustrations out in the kitchen and start experimenting with different foods. This can give you a creative outlet and at the same time help you figure out what foods really work for you.
- Other ideas: grab a book, take a hot bath, if you have a spiritual background lean into it. Start a blog and document your journey good and bad. Surround yourself, if you can, with positive people who can help lift you up.
How Food Sensitivity Testing can help
Have you heard of the mediator release test (MRT)? This is a food sensitivity test that is considered the “gold standard”. This blood test measures your body’s reaction to 170 different foods and food chemicals. MRT measures the quantity of the immune reaction to tested foods, providing a report showing the reaction level to each food and food chemical tested.
So you know what this means? It helps take the guess work out when trying to figure out what your trigger foods are! This test gives you the information and insight into what your inflammation provoking foods and chemicals are. From here you can build the BEST diet for you by using the results from the food sensitivity test and taking into consideration what foods work best with UC. If you are interested in food sensitivity testing please file out my free symptom survey and emailed it to me and we can see if you are a good candidate for this testing.
It’s important to know that your UC is unique to you. Everyone is different and unfortunately food affects everyone differently, there is no exact protocol.
If you are looking for a place to start that can give you some direction, provide some relief and allow you to really get in tune with your body I recommend you grab the 5-Steps to Immediately Improve Gut Health download below.
This protocol helps reduce inflammation by adjusting your nutrition and lifestyle, normalizes digestion and absorption, helps normalize gut bacteria, promote a balanced detox system and lastly helps promote gastrointestinal healing.
Once you have downloaded your FREE handout, if you still have questions do not hesitate to reach out for a FREE 20-minute consultation or fill out the contact form on my website so we can connect. You can also check out my 5-Steps to Immediately Improve Gut Health blog for additional information.