This post offers a collection of dietary and lifestyle guidelines that I have found to be helpful to people looking to overcome ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel conditions.
Ulcerative Colitis Is A Condition That Is Characterized By Inflammation In The Colon
The Most Common Symptoms Of Ulcerative Colitis Are:
- Abdominal cramping and pain that usually go away after having a bowel movement
- Diarrhea, sometimes with blood and mucus
- Weight loss
- A painful spasm of the anal sphincter that comes with a strong desire to have a bowel movement, but that results in the passing of little to no fecal matter
Some people with advanced cases of ulcerative colitis can have as many as forty to fifty episodes of diarrhea a day. If the pathological process of ulcerative colitis goes unabated, sometimes, there is little choice but to surgically remove portions of the colon.
Regrettably, most conventional practitioners treat ulcerative colitis with immunosuppressive drugs like prednisone. While immunosuppressive drugs can decrease symptoms in the short term, they often lead to long term worsening of overall health due to numerous side effects produced by these drugs.
What follows are guidelines that I have found to be helpful to people looking to address ulcerative colitis via natural means:
1. Take a high quality source of friendly bacteria every day.
A study published in the July 2005 edition of the American Journal of Gastroenteritis found that giving a probiotic mixture to people with mild to moderate cases of ulcerative colitis who had not responded to conventional therapy produced a 77% remission/response rate with no adverse effects.
You can obtain friendly bacteria from traditionally fermented foods like sauerkraut and kim chi.
I have found that fermented dairy products such as kefir and yogurt do not tend to produce the same positive results that fermented plant products do. This is most likely because people with ulcerative colitis simply do not have much capacity to efficiently digest animal protein, even if the animal protein in question is from a clean and organic source. This is not to say that people with ulcerative colitis can never have fermented dairy products. I just don't recommend them early in the recovery process.
2. Be careful not to eat a lot of raw plant foods, especially during flare ups.
In the midst of a flare up, it is best to eat mainly soft, cooked plant foods, the best ones being steamed zucchini, porridge made with white rice, and potato-based soups.
What about those folks who point to white rice being a highly refined food and therefore not a healthy food choice? In theory, white rice is inferior to fresh vegetables and whole grains that are minimally processed. But sometimes, one has to recognize that theory doesn't apply to every circumstance, and because I have experienced good results firsthand in feeding well cooked white rice to folks who were having dozens of bouts of bloody diarrhea a day while eating nothing but fresh vegetables, I stand behind this recommendation with confidence.
For some people, even small amounts of raw plant foods (including raw vegetable juices and green food powders) can increase the intensity and frequency of their symptoms.
Raw plant foods and their juices can be added back into the diet on a gradual basis once a flare up has subsided.
3. Ensure an adequate blood level of Vitamin D.
Ulcerative colitis is strongly associated with immune system dysfunction. An adequate blood level of Vitamin D is necessary to optimally support a healthy immune system. Vitamin D can be obtained from healthy exposure to the sun. It can also be obtained from healthy food sources such as wild salmon, organic eggs, a high quality source of cod liver oil, and sardines.
4. Avoid fats and oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids.
Fats and oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids can contribute to inflammation throughout the body, including in the colon. The worst offenders are oils made out of the following plants: safflower, corn, cottonseed, and sunflower. Sesame oil and peanut oil are also high in omega-6 fatty acids and should be used sparingly.
5. Regularly eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
A study performed at the Cleveland Clinic found that animal-based omega-3 fatty acids can help people recover from inflammatory bowel conditions, including ulcerative colitis. Although some organic flesh meats are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, I have found that many people with ulcerative colitis, especially those in the midst of a flare up, cannot tolerate cooked flesh meats.
The best source of animal-based omega-3 fatty acids that I know of is cod liver oil. High quality cod liver oil is an excellent source of two omega-3 fatty acids - DHA and EPA - that can help to decrease inflammation throughout the body, and is typically well tolerated by people with ulcerative colitis.
I have found that it is best for people with ulcerative colitis to take approximately 1 teaspoon per 50 pounds of body weight per day, before or with a meal.
Raw wild salmon and raw organic eggs are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and are surprisingly well tolerated by people with ulcerative colitis.
6. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause harmful changes to the balance of bacteria that live in the digestive tract. Put another way, regularly eating sugar and refined carbohydrates can take away the benefits of ingesting friendly bacteria, which we have already identified as an essential key to treating ulcerative colitis through natural means.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates can also create an elevated blood insulin level, which by itself, can contribute to inflammation throughout the body, including within the digestive tract.
7. Most importantly, give careful consideration to chronic emotional stressors.
The digestive tract is supplied by its own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system is intimately interconnected with the central nervous system, an association that makes perfect sense given that the two nervous systems share a common origin - a piece of tissue that develops in a growing embryo called the neural crest.
The relationship between the enteric nervous system and the central nervous system is such that emotional stress exacts a heavy toll on the digestive tract. If you haven't already done so, you can learn more about the ways in which emotional stressors affect human health in my article on natural ways to reduce stress.
The one common link between every person who has asked me for help with ulcerative colitis is that all of them could clearly identify one or more emotional stressors that either triggered the onset of their ulcerative colitis, or that was contributing to their symptoms in an obvious way.
Emotional stress is such a significant contributor to the pathological process of ulcerative colitis that if I developed a moderate to advanced case of ulcerative colitis, one of the first steps that I would take would be to arrange to take time off from work so that I could give my mind and body time to rest and return to a state of harmony. I'm certain that to not take this step would be to markedly reduce my chances of experiencing a full recovery.
In part two of this look at ulcerative colitis, I'll review a detailed food and lifestyle plan that can be used to apply the principles outlined in this article to treat ulcerative colitis through natural means.
A Natural Treatment Program For Ulcerative Colitis - Part II
By Dr. Ben Kim
September 15, 2009
Edited To Fit This Format
As a follow up to part one of this series on a natural treatment program for ulcerative colitis, this article provides a specific dietary plan that many people with ulcerative colitis and other types of inflammatory bowel disease can benefit from.
The following dietary plan is appropriate for people with ulcerative colitis who are not in the midst of a flare up:
1. Fruit smoothie made with bananas, blueberries, and enough water to get it going.
2. Bowl of porridge made out of long grain white rice (2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice), a small handful of raisins (cooked for at least 5 minutes), and a sprinkle of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of raw or unpasteurized honey.
3. Green smoothie made with 2-3 peaches, 2 tablespoons of blueberries or blackberries, 2 big handfuls of spinach, and enough water to blend everything together.
Note: if you are taking food powders like a super green food or acerola cherry powder, you can mix them in with any of these smoothies. On days when you don't make a smoothie, you can take these food powders with water.
1. Steamed sweet potato, avocado, and one or two soft boiled eggs.
2. Steamed zucchini, avocado, and a potato-based soup. Please see our archive of healthy soup recipes for several potato-based soup ideas.
3. Long grain white rice (1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of rice), steamed cabbage, and hummus.
4. Quinoa (2 cups of water for 1 cup of quinoa), avocado, and steamed butternut or acorn squash.
Dinner Choices - I recommend taking Carlson cod liver oil right before or with dinner.
1. Long grain white rice (1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of rice) with chickpeas and avocado, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, to taste.
2. Avocado-orange salad with raw or steamed wild salmon.
3. Quinoa (2 cups of water for 1 cup of quiona) with mashed garlic sweet potatoes and avocado.
4. Steamed zucchini, steamed carrots, steamed red beets, and sardines.
Note: If you are not taking a green food powder that contains friendly bacteria sometime during the day, I recommend taking another high quality source of friendly bacteria with or right after dinner - Dr. Ohhira's professional grade probiotic is the one that I highly recommend.
If you prefer not to take a probiotic supplement, you can add a traditionally fermented food to your dinner meal, such as kim chi or sauerkraut.
1. Any fresh fruit in season.
2. Baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, or chestnuts.
3. Small handful of raw walnuts that have been soaked for at least two hours.
4. Any of the smoothies listed under breakfast choices.
If you are in the midst of a flare up, you can follow the same general guidelines listed above, but you should lean towards eating the food choices that are cooked rather than those that are raw.
Please observe how your body reacts to each of your food choices and make adjustments accordingly.
Be sure to chew all of your foods well and to follow other principles of eating for optimal digestion.
1. Whenever possible, allow your skin to be exposed to sunlight. Just be sure not to get burned.
2. Make it a habit to breathe deeply from your abdomen at least once every five minutes for every hour that you are awake. Doing so will help to keep your parasympathetic nervous system active and your sympathetic nervous system subdued, which is important for promoting a healthy digestive tract.
3. Consider spending at least fifteen minutes each day writing any and all thoughts that come to mind in a private journal. Don't censor yourself, and be sure that no one else can see it. Write down all thoughts that pop up in your head, no matter now ridiculous they seem. This exercise can help increase your awareness of emotional stressors that may not be obvious at first thought.
4. If life circumstances allow, do something that you really enjoy every day. Think of an activity that is fun for you and make time for it.
5. Each day upon awakening and before you go to sleep, spend a few minutes thinking about:
- Loved ones who deeply care about your well-being
- Family and friends that you deeply care for
- Things that you are grateful for
I hope that these guidelines prove to be useful.