5 Rules for Eating with Ulcerative Colitis

Now this meal did make me feel sick later.

Now this meal did make me feel sick later.

I’ve thought about writing a post about diet since I started this blog, but something about it didn’t feel right to me. I’ve come to believe that it’s a personal, sensitive topic and I don’t feel comfortable telling people what they should and shouldn’t eat. But it is an important subject that comes up a lot with Crohn’s and colitis, so here are some general rules about eating that I strive to follow.

1. Don’t compare what you eat to what others eat.

I think different people react differently to different foods. Many people with ulcerative colitis are lactose intolerant, and for awhile I avoided lactose too. But I realized I’m not lactose intolerant. So I eat ice cream when I feel like it. Many people swear by the specific carbohydrate diet. I tried it with mixed results. It was a lot of work and I couldn’t stick with it. But still, when I see people post things about the specific carbohydrate diet, I start to feel like I should be doing it too. I try to remind myself that what works for other people doesn’t necessarily work for me, and vice versa.

2. Don’t judge what you or others eat.

I mostly judge what I eat. I feel guilty when I eat ice cream. But it doesn’t make my symptoms worse and I enjoy it, so why not? I worry that others are judging me also, wondering why I am eating ice cream when I have a digestive disease (even though no one has actually ever said anything to me to make me feel like they are judging what I eat). So I guess what I’m saying is, please don’t judge me when I eat ice cream.

3. Do try to figure out what foods bother you, but don’t drive yourself crazy doing it.

I found it very hard to sort out what foods might disagree with me. Keeping a food diary didn’t really help. However, there are some foods that eventually stood out: nuts, dried fruit, and onions to name a few. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to figure out every food combination that bothers you, but it is worth it to try to notice patterns and avoid things that clearly make you feel sick.

4. Do seek out information from reputable sources, such as your doctor or a dietitian.

There is a lot of information out there, much of it contradictory. Find a source that you trust and seek out the information you need. I found seeing a dietitian very helpful for coming up with a plan to figure out what foods disagree with me and coming up with things to eat during a flare.

5. Do accept that there is uncertainty and disagreement out there, and that there is no one right diet to follow.

I think that a lot is unknown regarding diet and IBD, and there is a lot of conflicting information out there. I’ve had one doctor tell me to eat more fiber during a flare, one tell me to eat less fiber, and one tell me that it doesn’t matter what you eat because “food is just food by the time it reaches your colon.” So get advice from a source you trust, try to figure out what foods bother you, and then just eat what you can and try not to worry about it too much.

What diet advice do you have for those with inflammatory bowel disease?