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The Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan That’s Kept Me In Remission For 5+ Years

Is there really any such thing as the perfect ulcerative colitis diet plan?
Sounds pretty much impossible when the list of foods you avoid is longer than the family shopping list.
And how could anyone come up with a diet plan for ulcerative colitis when flare-ups seem so random, and one food which might be fine for you hurts my guts – and vice versa?
Here’s the thing: there’s no one-size-fits-all diet that can be applied to the colitis problem (or any chronic health condition for that matter).
Your genetics, location, family background, health history, and more all play a part in making your diet unique to you.
BUT there are still several common trigger foods which are the culprits for causing an inflammatory response for people with ulcerative and worsening symptoms.
In this article, I’m going to:
* Highlight those foods are and explain why I avoid/reduce them as much as possible.
* Debunk some myths and mistruths floating around online on dietary advice for ulcerative colitis.
* Share a simplified dietary approach that has been crucial in helping to keep me in clinical remission for 5+ years now.
(No flare-ups, and I’m also medication free. Yes, it is possible).

Why Listen To Me?

Diet is a very controversial topic in the colitis community…
So, before we get into talking nutrition, I just think it’s important to reassure you that I’m pretty clued-up on this issue.

While I don’t pretend to know-it-all and I’m still always learning, I’ve been studying nutrition, disease, and alternative health in general for 14 years now.

I actually used to work in the media as a journalist for a decade before my gut health problems began, so researching deeply…that’s what I did professionally.

And so when the shit hit the fan with my gut health collapse back in 2010 – and the doctor basically said I’d have to take medication for the rest of my life – that’s when I got really serious about researching health, nutrition, and actually finding answers to get my gut back in working order again.

Secondly, I also had a side business as a personal trainer for a few years, and I wrote a series of health and fitness books which were largely focused around nutrition.

* Yep, the chronic gut health guy was training people to improve their health and fitness!


But tbh my health was quite steady at that point in my life, and I started the personal training work before I was diagnosed with UC.

And then thirdly, I’m actually now an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach…I’ve been studying with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition…and will be fully qualified in a matter of months.

So, while I honestly never claim to have all the answers, I can confidently say that I’m very knowledgeable about health and nutrition.

I’m also well-versed on how diet affects ulcerative colitis – because I’ve literally lived it too and fortunately had positive results with some of the changes I’m about to share.

Waiting…and Waiting On Ulcerative Colitis Dietary Advice

I still remember the day I was diagnosed at hospital and felt really confused.
I had struggled with digestive troubles for years, but hadn’t heard of ulcerative colitis before.

“Try not to worry about it, this medication works in 80% of cases” said the doctor as he handed me a prescription for steroids and mesalazine anti-inflammatories.

I kept waiting and waiting…and waiting…but the words I expected next never came.

I was hoping for some dietary advice, even the very basics of problem foods to avoid and the healthy stuff to eat more of, for this particular condition.

But I walked out of the hospital that day with my prescription in hand, yet clueless about which foods would help or hinder the situation.

And the timing of this whole new disease thing couldn’t have been worse.

Just a few months earlier, I’d just got back together with an old girlfriend.

Last thing I wanted was…

To be looking like shit.

Running to the bathroom in her house when we’re just trying to watch a movie – and then using up a week’s supply of her bog roll.

Worrying about disasters happening in the bedroom…and the messy bed covers scene from Trainspotting going through my head.

Fortunately, the medication worked…everything stabilised within a couple of weeks.

Still, because of everything I’d researched and my life experiences up until that point I was always of the opinion that nutrition DOES matter.

I spent the next few years researching inflammatory foods, along with lifestyle changes and biohacking tools which can help lower inflammation in the digestive tract (and therefore support the healing process).

Anti-Inflammatory Diet For Ulcerative Colitis

I’m of the opinion that no foods/drinks should ever be banned completely, we’ve all got to live a little.

But when flaring, or in the recovery process, it’s really important to reduce these three food group as much as you can.

Gluten, dairy, and high-sugar processed foods.

With gluten it’s not straightforward because it’s an ingredient in many processed foods these days.

The main staples in our diet that contain high levels of gluten are bread, pasta, and cereals.

You can buy gluten-free versions of bread, rolls, pasta etc in most supermarkets these days.

Another way around this is buying whole foods and freshly cooking/preparing as many of your meals as possible.

Drop The Dairy

Cheese, cow’s milk, and various milk-based products are all inflammatory foods and difficult to digest.

This is partly down to the lactose, a sugar found in dairy products which around two thirds of adults don’t digest properly.

Secondly, the processing of these products and issues around cow’s milk and hormones, antibiotics, pesticides etc also cause an inflammatory reaction.

Personally, I still have a little butter and cheese in small amounts, but I ditched cow’s milk, yoghurts, and whey protein powder many years ago.

Healthier alternatives are oat milk, nut milks, goat’s yoghurt, plant-based protein powders (if you’re into fitness and have been using whey protein).

High-sugar processed junk

There are countless reasons not to consume too much sugar.
But it robs the body of minerals – and then you’re in danger of developing deficiencies.

Fizzy drinks are the worst. Things like coca-cola, lemonade, Irn-Bru, including ‘diet’ varieties – avoid these like the plague.

These drinks are highly acidic, laden with sugar or sweeteners, terrible for your gut and overall health.

Healthier alternatives: water, lemon water, fresh fruit juice in place of fizzy drinks. Dark chocolate (70% or above) in place of standard milk chocolate, and pieces of fruit as healthy snacks instead of biscuits and sweets.

Alcohol will worsen your ulcerative colitis situation. No exceptions, every type of booze is going to irritate the gut lining and cause more inflammation.

Of course, you don’t have to become tee-total and give up booze forever.

But if you’re serious about restoring gut health, then at least cut the amount of boozing you do and save it for special occasions.

Meanwhile, reducing the amount of coffee you drink is also a very wise move. It’s also a troublemaker for inflaming the gut lining.

Myths & Mistruths Around The Best Diet For Ulcerative Colitis

I totally appreciate that everyone’s gut health journey is different, and just because certain approaches worked for me doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll work for another person…or that certain approaches even feel right for another person.

At the same time, I do feel that there’s some absolute nonsense out there online which really won’t help anyone with their ulcerative colitis.

There are some myths, mistruths, and also some pieces of key nutritional information that people don’t really get to hear about.

This is because the whole diet and nutrition world is so busy, loud, and confusing.

I jumped onto the Ulcerative Colitis Reddit forum to get a wide spread of opinions and to see what people are saying.

I’ll just let you know what I agree with, what I don’t agree with, and the reasons why.

It’s then totally up to you to make your own mind up.

The Ulcerative Colitis forum has 33,000 members, and after a quick search I found a thread where a user asked the big question: “Has Diet Change Truly Helped Anyone?”

There were 85 comments…and a wiiiide array of opinions.

Here are some of them below.

VIEWS I AGREE WITH

Diet is bio-individual.

“What is true for someone may not be true for you.”

“I personally think the diet thing is mostly individual, when I see people on here saying you can only eat this or not eat that I find that hasn’t been my experience. Experiment with what works for you, keep a food diary.” 

There are still common trigger foods – coffee, sugar, dairy etc.

“I don’t eat things I know make me feel terrible and/or I eat them in small amounts, like cheese. I follow a strict, ‘I eat what my body can eat’ dietary rule.”

“I keep excluding some foods. If I overdo sugar, caffeine or red meat I have a bad time.”

Diet IS Important

“Diet changes everything for me, I avoid fried foods all together use exclusively avocado oil for any cooking needs. I also take psyllium husk and bromelain daily symptom free no meds I am prepared for the down votes.”

“Diet affects the gut microbiome, pure and simple. We cannot all attain a healthy gut microbiome simply and solely through diet, sure, but the idea that diet plays no role at all in managing some patients’ UC is just. so. outdated!”

VIEWS I DISAGREE WITH…

Processed junk food is a better option than healthy food.

“Eating ‘clean’ actually makes it worse for me. Processed food sits better in my system.”

“Yes! When flaring the most processed junk is easier on me than healthy food. Probably because of fiber content.”

I accept that some healthy foods, like certain vegetables and fruits, are not tolerated by people with ulcerative colitis…and you have to avoid certain things, and cook veggies well etc.

And while processed food might not give any immediate reactions, it lack the nutrients we need from food – and is going to cause more problems in the long run.

Most processed foods also contain high amounts of either man-made trans-fats, or sugar, or both.

These actually heighten inflammation in the body – which is the last thing we want with IBD.

Secondly, on top of the unhealthy fats and sugars, most of the processed foods also contain all sorts of chemicals.

Think preservatives, dodgy e-numbers, unnatural ingredients, which not only cause inflammation but some of these can also mess with your hormones.

Then there’s the refined sugar in processed foods.

Too much refined sugar messes with your gut microbiome, ultimately worsening digestion over time, and can negatively affect your mental health, due to the gut-brain connection.

Food can’t help with the healing process.

“Food won’t impact your healing, it can just aggravate your symptoms.”

I definitely agree with the second part of this…because the wrong foods will aggravate your symptoms.

However, the right foods absolutely can impact your healing.

This goes down to the workings of the body at a deep cellular level.

Our tissues, our organs, our intestines…all of this is made up of trillions of tiny cells.

These cells depend on nutrients – vitamins and minerals – to function properly, to do repair work, to regenerate.

The body can produce vitamins D and B3 itself but all other vitamins, which play important roles in maintaining health, need to be absorbed through food.

And with minerals, your body uses minerals for many different jobs, including keeping your bones, muscles, heart, and brain working properly.

We need to get these vitamins and minerals from food – food that’s alive, food that’s nutritious, not processed junk.

Therefore, it’s impossible for the body to heal without these vitamins and minerals that we get from food.

So, for this crazy argument that “food doesn’t impact your healing” …I’m sorry but that’s one where I feel like the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Am I saying that food alone will heal your ulcerative colitis, and help you get well again?

No, definitely not. But it’s also impossible to heal without the right nutritious foods.

But yeah there are lots of other factors we’ve got to take into account.

Clearing out years’ worth of toxins that our bodies have accumulated.

Stress reduction.

Getting the basics right in terms of sufficient sleep and drinking water that’s actually good quality.

Taking additional steps to bring down the chronic inflammation in our bodies.

The list goes on.

But the bottom line is: nutrition does matter. Diet changes can really help to not only dampen your symptoms, but it’ll also provide the tools (those vitamins and minerals) that are critical to nourishing our cells and healing.

And trust me, for anyone diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, they’re bodies have been screaming for nutrients for a long time.

How I Avoid Gut Pain & Flare-Ups

When it comes to diet, there are five key nutritional principles I follow which have been crucial in keeping me in remission for the past 5+ years.

#1 Your diet is bio-individual. Listen to your body.

#2 ‘Clearing your plate’ before the next meal.

#3 The importance of meal timing.

#4 Real foods are not to be scared of.

#5 It’s all about the anti-inflammatory foods.

This unique ulcerative colitis dietary approach can end your gut pain and massively reduce your chances of a flare-up.

Ultimate 7-Day Meal Plan For Ulcerative Colitis

I’ve just released a brand new ebook with this information, along with 33 recipes (gluten free, dairy free, and no added sugar).

These meals are nourishing, anti-inflammatory, and jam-packed with the nutrients your body needs to heal.

It’s called ‘The Ultimate 7-Day Meal Plan For Ulcerative Colitis’. You can order a copy here: www.colitisremission.co.uk/7-day-meal-plan-for-ulcerative-colitis/
Marc McLean

Marc McLean

Marc McLean is a 41-year-old health coach, journalist, and author based in Dumbarton, Scotland. He is the founder of Mission: Colitis Remission, is host of the podcast by the same name, and has been in clinical remission of ulcerative colitis since 2018.

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