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What can I eat or drink with ulcerative colitis?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Dec 15, 2021.

Official answer


Knowing what to eat and drink with ulcerative colitis (UC) is not easy – you need to balance a healthy diet with avoiding foods that may potentially trigger your symptoms. Without proper nutrients, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can cause serious complications, including nutrient deficiencies, weight loss, and malnutrition. But that said, there is no single diet that works for everyone, and it is important to consult with a doctor or a dietitian specializing in IBD to help you develop a personalized meal plan. If you have UC, general dietary advice that you should follow includes:

  • Eating four to six small meals daily, rather than three large meals daily.
  • Staying hydrated — you should drink enough to keep your urine light yellow to clear, if it becomes dark or tea-like then you are dehydrated. Recommended fluids include water, broth, tomato juice, or a rehydration solution.
  • Drinking slowly and taking small sips. Avoid using a straw, which can cause you to ingest air, which may cause gas.
  • Keeping your kitchen well stocked with foods that you tolerate so that when you are hungry you don’t reach for processed foods
  • Boiling, grilling, steaming, or poaching food rather than frying it. Avoiding overly rich or spicy foods.
  • Keeping a food journal to help keep track of what you eat and make it easier to identify any foods that may trigger your symptoms

What foods can I eat when I am having an Ulcerative Colitis (UC) flare?

Certain foods are less likely to make your UC symptoms worse and can also help to reduce inflammation. These foods help settle your stomach and ensure you receive enough vitamins and minerals during an UC flare and include:

  • Low-fiber fruits such as bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and cooked or canned fruits
  • Lean protein, which is found in fish, lean cuts of pork, chicken, soy, eggs, and firm tofu
  • Refined grains, found in sourdough, potato or gluten-free bread, white pasta, white rice, mashed potatoes, and oatmeal
  • Fully cooked, de-seeded, skinless, non-cruciferous vegetables such as asparagus tips, cucumbers, potatoes, and squash
  • Homemade protein shakes or oral supplements
  • Use olive oil instead of other oils or fats
  • Apple sauce
  • Herbal or green tea.

What foods should I NOT eat when I am having an Ulcerative Colitis (UC) flare?

Certain foods can exacerbate or aggravate an UC flare and should be avoided. They are more likely to trigger cramping, bloating, and/or diarrhea and are also not recommended in people diagnosed with a stricture, which is a narrowing of the intestine caused by inflammation or scar tissue, or in those who have had recent surgery. Examples include:

  • Foods high in insoluble fiber that are hard to digest, such as seeds, raw green vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower), whole nuts, whole grains, or fruits with a skin
  • Lactose, which is milk sugar found in dairy products, milk, cream, cream cheese, and soft cheeses
  • Non-absorbable sugars such as sorbitol, mannitol, and other sugar alcohols that are typically found in sugar-free gum, candy, ice cream, and certain types of fruits and juices such as pear, peach, and prune juice
  • Sugary foods such as candy, pastries, and juices
  • High-fat foods such as butter or margarine, coconut oil, or fatty, fried, or greasy food
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol such as beer, wine, or spirits
  • Caffeinated drinks such as coffee or energy drinks
  • Soda.

What foods should I eat when my Ulcerative Colitis is in remission?

You should try and maintain a diverse and nutrient-rich diet even when you are in remission and your symptoms have reduced or gone away completely. Keep a food diary and introduce new foods slowly, so you understand which ones trigger your symptoms. Keep well hydrated with water, broth, tomato juice, or rehydration solutions, and avoid making large changes in your diet without your doctor’s advice. Eat foods such as:

  • Fiber-rich foods such as oat bran, beans, barley, nuts, and whole grains, unless your doctor has advised you to stick with a low fiber diet or you have an ostomy or intestinal narrowing
  • Lean protein, which is found in fish, lean cuts of pork, chicken, soy, eggs, and firm tofu
  • Fruits and vegetables of all colors – remove the peel and the seeds if they trigger your symptoms
  • Calcium-rich foods found in collard greens, yogurt, kefir, and milk (if you are lactose intolerant, choose lactose-free dairy products or use a lactase digestive enzyme)
  • Probiotic foods such as yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, or tempeh.
  • Living with-Ulcerative colitis NHS.
  • What Should I Eat? Crohn's and Colitis Foundation.

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