For most people, the general advice on nutrition is pretty straightforward: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. For people with ulcerative colitis, however, the advice isn’t so simple. The high fiber content of produce makes it hard to digest for people with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis, especially during a flare (when inflammation is present). While what you eat won’t cause ulcerative colitis to flare, certain foods can worsen symptoms like cramping and diarrhea.
The idea that everyone should eat lots of produce is “targeted toward a general population…that does not need to know where a restroom is in all situations,” says Beth Saltz, RD, a chef based in Los Angeles whose husband has Crohn’s disease, another type of IBD. Laura Manning, MPH, RD, a clinical nutrition coordinator in gastroenterology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, agrees. “However,” she says, “someone with IBD can learn how to incorporate fruits and vegetables in a safe way.
In short, there’s no reason you ought to shun fruits and vegetables. Instead, think of your diet as a balancing act. You want to reap the maximum amount of nutrition from healthy fare without aggravating your symptoms, says Saltz. Read on to learn some basic principles of fruit and vegetable preparation and get recipes that you may be able to tolerate.
1What Everyone With Ulcerative Colitis Should Know About Produce
People with ulcerative colitis often have multiple bouts of loose bowel movements during a flare-up. “When this occurs,” says Manning, “one should alter the texture of the diet so as to make it less abrasive on an inflamed and ulcerated colon.”
You may therefore find cooked fruits and veggies to be more easily tolerated. Cooking – whether you bake, roast, or boil — helps break down dietary fiber, making produce easier to digest.
Another trick is to peel your fruits and veggies — such as apples, pears, cucumbers, and potatoes — because the skins are particularly high in fiber. “You don’t want large amounts of insoluble fiber in the foods you eat,” Manning says. “By simply peeling and cooking, the abrasiveness is significantly lower.”
You can also try consuming fruits and vegetables in soups and smoothies to lessen any abrasive effects. For smoothies, Manning suggests that you use a protein base, such as 100 percent whey protein powder or soy or rice protein powder. “Your protein needs are higher with IBD — especially in a flare state,” she says. “Then add fruits that are peeled, but don’t use fruits with seeds. Try bananas, peaches, mango, papaya, and melons.” She also recommends adding smooth nut butters, vanilla extract, or cocoa powder to add flavor and nutrients. Make sure you blend the ingredients until very smooth so that your drink is easier to digest.