The ulcerative colitis sufferer can make a big impact on his or her symptoms by following some simple dietary guidelines and making lifestyle changes.Having a special ulcerative colitis diet tailored to the individual by a registered dietician is usually very helpful. While most suffers find dietary changes helpful, very little clinical research on the effect of diet and nutrition on ulcerative colitis has been done—research generally focuses on new drugs used to treat the disease.
Lifestyle changes could include the incorporation of relaxation techniques, biofeedback, dietary supplements, and acupuncture.
The Ulcerative Colitis Diet
No one ulcerative colitis diet is appropriate for all UC sufferers. A registered dietician can help create a diet tailored to the patient’s needs. But research by the individual is what will determine which foods must be avoided and which foods are “safe.” The role of the dietician is to help the patient ensure adequate caloric and nutritional intake while controlling symptoms.
Dietary fiber and the number of meals eaten per day are important aspects of ulcerative colitis symptoms control. Very high fiber diets, while good for the cardiovascular system, can exacerbate UC. Eating small meals, around five per day, which include all of the food groups, can help control symptoms.
Keeping a food diary can be helpful to both patient and dietician. In a food diary the patient notes all foods and liquids consumed during the day, their volume, the time of day, and the severity of symptoms. The dietician may request that a food diary be kept for a week or so prior to the initial consultation and for some time afterwards as the customized ulcerative colitis diet is being fine-tuned.
When discussing dietary changes with a dietician, keep in mind that some medications for ulcerative colitis can inhibit absorption of nutrients, and that side effects can affect the appetite. All medications taken should be noted in the food diary.
Adjunct Therapy: Biofeedback and Relaxation Techniques
While the primary cause of ulcerative colitis is not known, what is known is that stress increases the severity of the symptoms. Adjunct therapy is used as a complement to traditional medicine, not as an alternative to traditional treatment and care.
Relaxation techniques and biofeedback (controlling body systems) are ways to decrease stress. Acupressure and acupuncture are relaxing therapies that focus on energy points (chi) in the body.
Malabsorption can result from medications such as prednisone, so nutritional supplements may be beneficial.
Always discuss any adjunct therapy with your primary care physician and dietician. Remember that nontraditional healing methods can enhance modern medicine and surgical practices, but should not take their place.