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No scientific evidence supports any particular dietary approach for ulcerative colitis (UC). When it comes to managing UC, there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet. Because good nutrition is important for everyone, here are some general tips that may be helpful, regardless of your disease. Discuss them with your doctor to come up with an individualized approach to diet and nutrition that works for you.

David T. Rubin, MD, is professor of medicine and co-director of the Digestive Diseases Center at the University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Rubin believes a well-balanced diet is important for everyone, including people with UC. "There are many reasons why you should strive for a well-balanced, healthy diet," he says.

"I've worked with patients with UC for years, and I’m asked consistently about the role of diet and nutrition. Here's what we know: previous studies have failed to demonstrate that diet directly causes the development of UC."

"However, a balanced diet is still an important aspect of your overall disease management. And because every patient's disease is unique to them, any dietary changes should be discussed with your doctor and nutritionist to make sure that they are right for you."

The importance of balanced nutrition

There are a number of reasons why working with your health care team to ensure you are getting balanced nutrition is so important:

  • Active UC disease can result in anemia (due to blood loss) and, depending on the severity of the disease, may also result in having too few nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
  • If patients experience UC symptoms after eating certain food, they may avoid eating those foods entirely. This has resulted in some patients limiting their dietary intake further, which can result in weight loss and malnutrition
  • When you are sick, your body may need more energy (calories) than when you are well, and this increased need, if not met, may further contribute to weight loss and poor nutrition for some people

Work with your health care team to fine tune your diet

Remember, specific foods do not control UC and a specific diet cannot cure UC. There's no one diet that will work for everyone with this disease, so it's important to work with your health care team to determine what dietary approach is right for you.

Many Web sites promote diets for inflammatory bowel disease. However, these diet recommendations have not been sufficiently studied or proven to specifically work for patients with UC. Before you make any dietary changes, share the information you find with your doctor to see if he or she thinks they are right for you.

Although you may not have a good appetite during the start of a UC flare, once symptoms begin to improve, your doctor may encourage you to eat a diet without restrictions. Most patients should be able to work with their health care team to maintain healthy, well-balanced nutrition. Remember, good nutrition is an important aspect of healthful living for everyone, not just people with UC.