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What Are The Worst Foods For Ulcerative Colitis? My Top 3…

* (Well, Technically Food & Drinks!)

Marc McLean with coffee cup
My manager hobbled into the office, plonked his two litre bottle of Coke down onto the desk, and began moaning about his sore leg.
In his early 40s. Diagnosed with gout. Taking a new medication every other week.
He’d talk about his next doctor’s appointment from his flush red-face, appeared permanently exhausted, and looked at least 20 years older than he really was.
Gout – just like IBD and virtually all chronic disease – is caused by ongoing inflammation in the body. It’s an inflammation of the joints and it causes swelling.
Now, I don’t know about you, but gout is something that I always associated with older people in their 60s or 70s.
My boss was a much younger guy – a very intelligent guy I might add – yet he couldn’t see the big, black problem staring him right in the face.
When my manager sat down at our team desk every morning, he would guzzle straight from that two litre bottle of cola in between calls. Come lunchtime it would be finished.
Five days per week.
Ten litres of cola.
More than 1,000 grams of sugar.
He never put two and two together, yet it was so obvious to me that the stupid lifestyle choices he made were clearly a significant factor, and likely the main cause, of all this inflammation in his body.
His body was screaming for help through this gout condition.

High Sugar Foods & Drinks Are Also a Real Problem For Anyone With an Inflammatory Bowel Disorder

And there are millions of people struggling with colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and similar digestive issues like diverticulitis all over the world right now.
Coca cola being poured into a glass
I know from personal experience that making positive dietary and lifestyle choices can play a big part in reversing nightmare digestive symptoms.
Doing so has been a key factor in overcoming my severe case of ulcerative colitis naturally – and helping me to stay in remission for over five years now.
I go into much more detail on other positive steps I took to reclaim my digestive health in my ebook Gut Rescue, which you can download for free by clicking here.
And if you were to ask me, “what are the worst foods for ulcerative colitis?”, then I’d come up with three main foods/food groups in particular.
No prizes for guessing the first one…

Foods To Avoid With Ulcerative Colitis #1: High Sugar Foods & Drinks

Simple dietary choices can be the big difference between staying healthy and balanced…or a massive colitis flare-up.
Now obviously it’s impossible to have a perfect diet all the time. We’ve all got to live a little.
And there’s no perfect diet that fits everyone. We’re all unique and bio-individual.

With even a small can of Coke daily, you’re guzzling 39 grams of sugar. Yes, 39! That means you’ve already exceeded the amount of added sugar that you should have for the entire day.

Still, there are certain foods and drinks which I class as digestive tract troublemakers.
High sugar foods and drinks are top of the list.
The NHS in the UK tells us that adults should have no more than 30 grams of added sugar per day (around seven sugar cubes).
In the US, the figure is no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day (around nine sugar cubes).
‘Added sugar’ is the refined stuff, the white sugar. We’re not talking about the natural sugars that you get in fruits – which also contain vital vitamins and minerals.
If you’re someone who drinks even a small can of Coke daily, you’re guzzling 39 grams of sugar.
Yes, 39! That means you’ve already exceeded the amount of added sugar that you should have for the entire day.

Watch Out For These Sneaky, High-Sugar ‘Health’ Foods

When we talk of high sugar foods, we tend to think of cakes, biscuits, chocolate etc.
There are plenty of products on supermarket shelves these days that are packaged and marketed as if they’re healthy when they’re actually not.
I’m talking about things like so-called healthy breakfast bars and, in most cases, protein bars.
If you actually look at the label on some of these, they contain up to like 20 grams of sugar per bar.
Ridiculous – that’s about two thirds of recommended daily allowance in terms of added sugar for the entire day.
The warning also applies to the diet versions of fizzy drinks, ‘Coke Zero’, ‘Diet Lemonade’, ‘Zero Sugar Fanta’ etc…all of those so-called healthier versions.
They take the sugar out. They put in dodgy sweeteners like aspartame, sucrose, and sucralose.
Then there are products like energy drinks labelled as ‘sugar free’ and ‘contains vitamins’.
Problem is, these drinks are also loaded with sweeteners, artificial colourings, and usually high levels of caffeine.
All of the above negates any positive benefits you’re supposed to be getting from the synthetic vitamins apparently included in the drinks.
And when trying to figure out the best diet for ulcerative colitis, why are these high sugar foods and drinks a real problem?

It’s All About The Gut Microbiome

Firstly, all of that refined sugar and/or artificial sweeteners messes with your gut microbiome.
It’s really delicate in there, and research has shown that artificial sweeteners can also mess up that natural balance between the good and bad bacteria.
This then affects the digestion of your foods – and can have a negative effect on your mood and mental state too due to the gut-brain connection.

Wanna learn more about the gut microbiome? I interviewed a world-leading expert on this topic. Check it out here.

Too much refined sugar in our diet also feeds pathogens within the digestive tract.
For people dealing with ulcerative colitis, there can be a lot of undigested food in the gut, which pathogens will feed on and they proliferate.
* This is why I always preach about the importance of cleansing the digestive tract daily.
It’s also worth noting that these drinks are very acidic and irritate the gut lining.
Our guts are already inflamed and sore. It’s imperative to do the best we can to bring down that inflammation and soothe that irritation.
Another major reason not to drink these garbage drinks is that they rob your body of minerals that are essential for the healthy functioning of your body.
Magnesium, calcium, potassium…these actually get stripped out of your bones and tissues simply to counter the effects of all this acidity from the drinks.
When this process happens on a regular basis, it is obviously then going to lead to mineral deficiencies.
When we have deficiencies for too long, that leads to symptoms, and then the symptoms ultimately lead to disease.
Let’s move onto number two…

Best Diet For Ulcerative Colitis…Tip #2 AVOID Gluten

We’re talking about breads, pastas, cereals. Foods that are staples in our diet, which makes things a little tricky.
Gluten is a particular protein that’s found in the wheat plant and some other grains.
Now, there’s a big misconception out there that foods containing gluten, the breads, the pastas and so on, only really affect people with celiac disease.
That’s complete bullshit.
There is an absolute mountain of research out there that shows that gluten results in all sorts of GI issues and it causes real inflammation throughout the body.
I’ll give you the perfect example, when I eat things that contain gluten, such as garlic bread or pizza, I’ll always find afterwards is that it’s not just gut issues that I experience.
I get headaches almost every time I eat bread.
And that’s because it’s causing this inflammatory response throughout the body, and I’m literally feeling it in my brain.
Others may experience a sore throat, or develop skin issues hours or a day after eating foods containing gluten.
So yeah, you don’t need to be diagnosed with celiac disease to be affected by gluten.
Scientists also refer to others suffering from IgE-mediated wheat allergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
For anyone with ulcerative colitis, displaying ongoing inflammation in the digestive tract, I would suggest that gluten should be avoided as much as possible.

What Are The Worst Foods For Ulcerative Colitis? (Unpopular Opinion)...Coffee

Okay, so this is obviously a drink rather than a food…
But I’m including coffee because sooo many people drink countless cups of the stuff every week, not realising how it can badly affect gut health.
You might be hating me right now for listing this as one of my gut inflammation foods to avoid.
You might live for your warm hit of caffeine in the morning.
And I love coffee as much as the next person. I love the smell of the stuff. I love the taste of it…cappuccinos are my favourite.
But I can’t get away with any more than one cup of coffee per day. If I drink two cups, I start feeling it straight away.
If I drink cups of coffee on consecutive days, one day after another, I’m gonna run into problems.
Just like the fizzy juice, coffee is highly acidic (especially with two sugars and cream) and it’s also going to irritate your gut lining.
Whether it’s organic, whether it’s freshly ground or instant, whether you got it shipped in from some mountains in Columbia…
Too much coffee is going to block your progress in trying to overcome your colitis symptoms.
Also, the excessive amounts of caffeine will mess with your adrenal glands. The adrenals operate like your body’s battery.
If you keep jacking them up all the time with excess caffeine, eventually you’re just going to flatline and you’ll start feeling fatigue and struggling throughout the day.

A Healthier, Alternative Approach

Let me be clear: I’m NOT saying that you need to banish these food and drink groups from your life in order to ease your colitis symptoms.
But if you can avoid/reduce as much as possible in your diet, it can potentially make a significant difference in your gut healing journey.
I’ve drastically reduced sugar – but I still have dark chocolate as a treat after dinner most nights.
I mainly opt for herbal teas like lemon and ginger, peppermint etc when it comes to hot drinks – but I still have a cappuccino now and again.
I’ve swapped out standard bread and pasta for gluten-free options – but I still relax my diet when eating out at restaurants or at barbecues.
The three main food groups once again: high sugar foods and drinks; gluten containing foods; and coffee.
Read the labels for sugar content. No more than 30g of added refined sugar per day.
Do your best to cut out gluten and replace bread and pasta with gluten-free versions.
And then finally, coffee. If you love your guts…if you really, really love your guts…then give your guts a break from 13 cups of coffee per day!
Maybe try swapping some cups of coffee for herbal teas, or just plain water, and give your digestive tract a better chance to repair and restore.
Just reduce/avoid them as much as possible if you want to have the best chance of reversing your colitis symptoms and staying healthy and balanced.
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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