In the 20 years I’ve had ulcerative colitis, I’ve experimented with many diets. Here I share the best ulcerative colitis diet plan for women that I’ve found so far. It’s not a formal diet – it’s just the foods that help keep my colitis from flaring up.
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Did you know that the bacteria in your gut helps keep your brain healthy? I recently read an article called ‘Eat Your Way Happy’ in Yoga Journal, by Sunny Sea Gold. She described several foods that improve mood and increase the neurochemicals in our brains. But she takes it one step further – she says that there is a relationship between gut bacteria and neurochemicals in the human brain.
“Researchers don’t yet understand how gut bacteria affect neurochemicals in the human brain,” writes Gold, “but it’s clear that diet is one of the keys to promoting healthy gut flora.” And that’s the foundation of this diet plan for women with ulcerative colitis: nutritious foods that keep our brains and our guts healthy, balanced, and calm.
My ulcerative colitis is fairly mild. Only the very bottom part of my bottom is affected – about the first 20 centimetres. I haven’t had a flare up in over a year, but I do use Pentasa enemas when I feel the colitis waking up. My diet plan keeps the ulcerative colitis in remission, more or less. It’s only when I get stressed out and/or don’t sleep well that it flares.
Here’s what I eat every day to keep the colitis from flaring up, plus valuable information about gut bacteria, brain health, and mood from Sunny Sea Gold’s article.
My Ulcerative Colitis “Diet Plan”
Before you start a new ulcerative colitis diet plan, talk to your gastroenterologist. Mine is Dr Ho; I call him my bum doctor. But not to his face.
All women are different – their bodies, lifestyles, genetics, and especially the degree and type of ulcerative colitis they have! Your IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) may be completely different than mine, but we both call them “ulcerative colitis.” A diet plan that works for me may not work for you. That said, however, it’s definitely worth trying different types of diets to see what keeps your ulcerative colitis from flaring up.
Eat prebiotic foods – asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal
I recently learned about prebiotics, I haven’t found them in the stores I normally shop. I’m sure I could buy them at natural health food stores, but I’ve found that probiotics and my ulcerative colitis diet plan are effective at keeping my guts calm and balanced.
In her article, Gold writes, “Prebiotic foods such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, unrefined wheat, chicory root, and legumes support gut bacteria and their functions.”
If you have any type of inflammatory bowel disease, make sure you eat a lot of prebiotic and probiotic foods. They support healthy gut bacteria, which will help keep your ulcerative colitis from flaring up. This is an essential part of a diet plan for women with ulcerative colitis.
I take a probiotic supplement every morning, to ensure my gut flora is healthy and thriving.
Enjoy lean proteins – especially fish (salmon and tuna)
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you won’t like the first thing on my ulcerative colitis “diet plan” for women! But it works for me. I eat a small handful of lean protein on top of the huge salad I eat for dinner every night.
Chunks of salmon, tuna, chicken, and various types of fish (basa, trout, tilapia, sole) are a tasty and healthy addition to my salad. Sometimes I’ll have shredded low-fat mozza or cheddar, part of an avocado, or a boiled egg. I usually salt it this handful of protein – and even add a few shakes of Stubbs’ Steak Rub (I love his sea salt, coffee, and molasses combination).
Try my “world famous” kale salad
Not all women with ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease can eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Before you start this or any diet plan, you need to test how your body reacts to different types of veggies. Raw onions – which I love – are famous for causing gas and bloating in the intestines, which means I don’t eat then when my colitis is flared.
Mine isn’t the most exciting ulcerative colitis diet plan, but I eat the same salad every night for dinner. The foundation is always a combination of kale, spinach, red pepper, celery, onion, and apple. For variety I’ll add whatever I find in the fridge: a little broccoli, red cabbage, carrot, pear, orange, peas, etc. Anything.
I love my salad because it takes a long time to eat (I love to eat!), it tastes delicious, I feel full when I’m done, and I wake up feeling light and hungry for breakfast. Plus, it’s healthy – especially now that I’m adding lean protein. I used to put salted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds on my salads, with a handful of raisons because the sweetness deliciously counteracts the saltiness.
I’ve lost weight since I replaced the salty seeds with the lean protein, and I feel much lighter and healthier. I now weigh less than 110 pounds – and this is a healthy weight for me because I’m barely 5 feet tall! Another interesting fact: my dog also has ulcerative colitis. I describe how I diagnosed her intestinal bowel disorder in Causes of Gurgling Noises and Stomach Problems in Dogs.
Retrain your taste buds
“Refined carbohydrates, sugar, and saturated fats upset the balance of bacteria,” writes Gold in ‘Eat Your Way Happy.’ She adds that the effect of food on our brains (and our guts) may be speedier than we expect – days, not years.
If you’re addicted to sugar like I am, you need to deliberately and consciously retrain your brain and taste buds. I’ve learned to love the taste of my fresh veggie salad – especially in combination with the salty lean protein and sweet plump raisons. I don’t add salad dressing or anything to my salads.
Once you start eliminating most sugar and fat from your diet, you won’t miss it. And, you’ll find that the heavy creamy fatty salty processed foods actually taste gross! Why? Because you’ll associate that taste with the heavy, tired, draggy, depressed feelings you get after the high wears off.
Did you know that high carbohydrate junk or convenience foods increase the inflammation in your guts? This can lead to a flare up of your ulcerative colitis. That’s why having a healthy diet plan for women is so important – there is a direct connection between the food you eat and how active your colitis is.
Try my ulcerative colitis diet plan for lunch and breakfast
As a writer, I have the luxury of eating lunch at home. I watch Dragon’s Den – the United Kingdom version – while I eat, even though I know it’s mindless and unhealthy (eating in front of the television, not the show itself!).
I created my own lunch “mash”: spicy hot homemade tomato/garlic/assorted veggie salsa, cilantro salsa (my husband blends cilantro, zucchini, spinach, kale, garlic, and grapefruit into a beautiful thick green puree), frozen mixed vegetables (cooked), and a couple dollops of plain low fat yogurt. I eat this with rice crackers – sort of like normal people eat salsa and chips – and I LOVE it. My salsas are easy ways to add nutrition to my diet.
My breakfast is simple and more or less normal: a bowl of fruit chunks (my favorite is a few bits each of mango, banana, blueberries, oranges) covered with skim milk and ground flax seeds. I also take two Lactaids before I eat dairy, because my gut doctor told me I also have a mild form of irritable bowel syndrome. Twice a week I have two pieces of toast: one with ketchup and a soft boiled egg on top, the other with mashed banana and peanut butter. Yum!
While I admit this isn’t an official ulcerative colitis diet plan for women – nor is it “doctor approved” – it works like a charm for me! I feel healthy and strong, and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been in my whole life. This is saying a lot, as I’m 46 years old.
My ulcerative colitis diet may not work for you, but I encourage you to experiment with different types of foods and lifestyle changes. You will find something to help keep your IBD calm and in remission…but it does take time.
What to Do Next
Read Crohn’s and Colitis Diet Guide – Including 175 Recipes by Dr Hillary Steinhart and Julie Cepo. You’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about healthy diet plans for women with ulcerative colitis from one of North America’s top gastroenterology teams.
They cover everything from the facts, causes and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease to the latest and most relevant information on drug therapies and surgical therapies – in an easy-to-understand format.
Change your eating habits slowly, over time. I struggled with my diet and eating habits for a long time, and had to learn why I never felt full and couldn’t stop eating.
Leave a comment! What’s your experience with inflammatory bowel disease – or different diet plans for women with ulcerative colitis? I welcome your thoughts and insights below – I’d love to hear what does and doesn’t work for you.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of ulcerative colitis diets and lifestyles.
If you’re married, you might be interested in 5 Sex Tips for Women With Ulcerative Colitis article.
Resource: ‘Eat Your Way Happy’ by Sunny Sea Gold, in the March 2016 Yoga Journal.