Let’s be honest, combating stomach discomfort is something that no one enjoys. It’s important to know that there are actions that can be taken for those with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) in order to alleviate the irritating symptoms. Ulcerative colitis is one of those IBDs, which is a chronic condition of the large intestine or colon. This condition can be caused by your immune system, environmental factors, or even genetics. This post will share some tips and tricks to help manage ulcerative colitis and other IBDs, like Crohn’s disease, ileocolitis and ileitis.
Because ulcerative colitis is a condition usually characterized by signs of abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, blood in the stool, cramping, weight loss, or inability to hold in defecation, the food that you put into your body can definitely cause your stomach to turn. Many factors, like diet and daily activities, impact how and why the body feels a certain way on a day to day basis. There are many ways to lessen the seemingly harsh symptoms of IBDs. Keep reading below to learn more about how paying attention to diet, exercise, supplementation, and more that can help you manage your IBD.
First and foremost, your dietary intake can make or break a healthy, fully-functioning gut. Although some food may affect others differently, adopting a healthy, well-balanced diet can start you off on the right foot. Even making small changes like avoiding fried foods can set you up for success. This idea of making a simple decision to eat healthily is very important, but then making other little healthy choices on top of that will only have added benefit for you in the long run.
Choose Nutritious Foods
Simple daily decisions of avoiding greasy foods like burgers and fries, and choosing more nutritious items like fruits and vegetables can go a long way. Even on a small scale, substituting almonds or walnuts in place of chips and cookies, or choosing nutritious whole grain foods of wheat pastas instead of high-fat foods like macaroni and cheese or pizza, due to their nutrient density or composition and added health benefits like antioxidants and fiber. These nutrients can prevent many health-related diseases and complications related to IBD., but there are added health benefits with antioxidants and fiber which can be preventive against many health-related diseases.
Avoid Spicy Foods and Soda
Generally speaking, spicy food irritates the stomach so it should be avoided in order to ensure that there is no extra irritation caused in the stomach. Because of this, adding flavor in other ways can be done through healthy sauces like tahini, hummus, or pesto, and herbs like lemon pepper, oregano, or basil. Another important tactic to ease your belly is to cut out the sodas by substituting them with a seltzer water, low calorie juice, or zero calorie Zevia soda, and avoid eating out whenever you can. These are easy ways to help your diet that can be done in easy ways!
Meal Plan to Control Ingredients You Consume
In regards to meal planning, it is usually best to eat homemade food, because for the most part you can ensure that nothing will irritate you since you are aware of the ingredients and can prepare it in a way that is most beneficial to you and the sensitivity of your body. If time is an issue, finding easy recipes online to give you ideas for quick home meals can help make home preparation seem like less of a chore. Some tips for healthy cooking is to use olive oil because it is a healthy way to prepare your meals, bake foods instead of frying them, and also try to use fresh ingredients because you can get the most nutrients from fresh goods!
Here are some simple dietary suggestions for those with IBD:
- Substitute whole grains for enriched white grains such as whole wheat pasta, whole grain tortillas, or whole grain crackers
- Try cutting out red meat and incorporating more lean poultry like chicken and/or fish in the diet
- Eat fresh fruit instead of artificially sweetened foods or candies
- Drink lots of water throughout the day instead of sodas
- Use herbs like basil or rosemary rather than hot sauces or chili peppers
- Bake foods instead of frying them
- Choose healthy snacks like nuts or popcorn as opposed to items like chips or cookies
We all have our habits and daily schedules, and it’s important to realize that our usual life habits can have a big impact on an individual’s health with conditions like IBDs
Avoid Drinking and Smoking
When you go to the doctor’s office for a routine check-up, usually you are asked the question “do you often smoke or drink alcohol?” This question is especially relevant when dealing with health concerns because stopping smoking can decrease the frequency and severity in flare-ups of inflammatory bowel diseases. In addition, drinking alcohol has been shown to irritate the stomach and can cause extra inflammation in the body, seen with cramping and bloating, so it is best to limit your consumption if possible.
In terms of exercise, hop on a yoga mat or head out for a walk because moving and grooving can sure help you out! Exercise is usually great for anyone, but can especially help those with IBDs. Low-impact exercises like yoga and walking have shown to decrease inflammation in patients with IBD. Simple exercises can also reduce stress and improve your overall well-being, which creates a positive effect on your overall health.
Take Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
Now let’s talk about supplements. Over the years, evidence has surfaced about certain supplements being helpful when dealing with these irritable bowel conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids, most commonly found in fish oil supplements, are generally anti-inflammatory which can have positive effects on gut health. Along with this, there have been studies on curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, which can be helpful in patients presenting with IBD symptoms. Including these simple supplements in your diet may be able to help you.
The most important advice that we can give is that you need to find what works and doesn’t work for you specifically as an individual when it comes to your consumption. Based on your body, one food or ingredient might trigger flare-ups in one individual, while another person does really well with that certain item. For example, some people with IBDs are able to tolerate dairy relatively well, while others who experience the same symptoms of the condition may be drastically discomforted by dairy. Pay attention to your body and how it responds to changes in your diet in order to continue making progress in relieving the irritating symptoms that can be caused by IBDs. Keep in mind that there are many easy ways to help IBDs by making small life changes that can improve your gastrointestinal functioning.
By Olivia Fieo, Registered Dietitian