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  • Writer's pictureKym at pip nutrition

Ulcerative colitis: what is it and how do you manage it?

Updated: May 24

Small changes to your diet may help to alleviate the symptoms of ulcerative colitis and reduce the risk of it getting worse.

Ulcerative colitis affects 146,000 people in the UK. It's a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); the result of the colon and rectum becoming inflamed and creating ulcers in their lining. These can become irritated, bleed or produce pus. Chronic diarrhoea is another common symptom, along with blood or mucus in your stool (always important to get checked out) and many people experience fatigue and even weight loss.

Some experts think ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune condition, while others posit that environment plays a role – for example, many people with ulcerative colitis recall their illness starting with a stomach bug after travelling. Ibuprofen and stress are also possible triggers.

While there is no cure for this chronic condition, you don't have to suffer. Medication and surgery are the most common medical approaches, but you can also try self-management with dietary changes - this can be most helpful when your symptoms are in remission, and may also help prevent them from getting worse. Here's an insight to how I help my clients manage their ulcerative colitis symptoms.

  • Try to minimise dietary triggers of diarrhoea, including coffee, tea and high-fat foods, and stick to smaller portions

  • If you’re having an active flare-up, a temporary low fibre diet can help keep you from rushing to the toilet – but get help to reintroduce fibre when you can, as it is important for long term bowel health. I can help you find the right type and amount for yo

  • Reducing alcohol, dried fruit, dairy and meat is also thought to help, by reducing hydrogen sulphide in the diet. This is a gas that can contribute to inflammation of the gut lining. I will help you reduce these foods while enjoying tasty and nutritious alternatives

'If you’re having an active flare-up, a temporary low-fibre diet can help'
  • Early studies show that curcumin (found in turmeric) may help reduce flare-ups, and that probiotic supplements may keep the condition in remission - but you need to take the right form and strain for them to be effective

  • Recent research has also identified a link between the low FODMAP diet and a reduction in bloating and wind in people with inactive ulcerative colitis. It’s important to try this diet under my guidance, as it can compromise your good gut bacteria levels

Everyone's symptoms are different, but generally I recommend working together over a 3-6 month period to help you manage your health and feel confident keeping up these beneficial changes. If you're suffering, email me and we can arrange to talk about how I can help you. A personalised approach to dietary changes will keep you motivated and ensure you're following the right advice for your body and mind.

Originally written for Womens' Health magazine online.

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