George Krucik, MD, MBA
Colitis is a chronic disease that causes open sores and inflammation in the lining of your rectum and colon, causing abdominal pain, frequent bowel emptying and diarrhea. Though symptoms can affect people of all ages, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, they typically appear between ages 15 and 30 and may worsen in response to emotional stress and eating certain foods. In addition to medical treatments, a healthy dietary lifestyle may help reduce the frequency or severity of your symptoms.
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Starches, such as breads, pasta and cereals, provide glucose -- your body's main food-derived energy source. Fiber-rich foods are a staple of most healthy diets, since fiber promotes digestive function and cardiovascular health. If you have an inflammatory bowel disease such as colitis, however, fiber-rich foods may worsen gas, bloating and diarrhea, according to MayoClinic.com. Avoid high-fiber starches, such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, bran muffins and high-fiber cereals, when your symptoms are active. If your symptoms are in remission, consume fiber-rich foods in modest, gradual amounts, to allow your digestive system time to adjust.
Certain Fruits and Vegetables
High-fiber fruits and vegetables, such as artichokes, legumes and raspberries, may also exacerbate colitis symptoms. Because fruits and vegetables are top sources of antioxidants -- nutrients that strengthen your body's ability to defend itself against infections and disease -- consume varieties you tolerate regularly. If your doctor recommends a low-residue diet, which reduces activity in your digestive tract, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America recommends avoiding "scrappy" foods, such raw fruits and vegetables. Well-cooked and peeled fruits and vegetables provide useful alternatives. Other fruits and vegetables that may worsen gas include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Since foods affect people with colitis differently, take note of and limit items that pose problems.
Colitis may make it difficult for you to digest high-fat and greasy foods. Incomplete fat absorption may cause gas and diarrhea, according to the CCFA, particularly if much of your bowel has been surgically removed. To prevent these problems, avoid fried foods, such as french fries, onion rings and fried fish and chicken, creamy sauces, pork products, processed meats and high-fat creamy sauces. Use light amounts of plant-based oils instead of butter, margarine or shortening, and replace fatty meats with baked, broiled or grilled cold-water fish, which may provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
Dairy products are valuable sources of protein, calcium and vitamin D. However, avoiding or eliminating dairy products may improve gas and abdominal pain associated with colitis, according to MayoClinic.com. If milk, yogurt, cheese and sour cream seem to worsen your symptoms, consume non-dairy equivalents instead. Consume lactose-free or soy-based milk instead of cow's milk, for example. Other lactose-free calcium sources include tofu, almonds, fortified orange juice and canned tuna, salmon and sardines.