Nutrition & Exercise
A treatment plan that works for you is essential when it comes to managing ulcerative colitis (UC) symptoms and the inflammation that can cause them. However, diet and exercise are also important. A diet that includes variety, so you get enough calories and nutrition, is vital. Getting regular exercise can also benefit your body. Talk to your healthcare team to help you plan your diet and tailor activities to you.
Ulcerative colitis nutrition
Research does not suggest that food causes ulcerative colitis—or that the inflammationImmune response to tissue injury that causes redness, swelling, and pain. of the large intestine is affected by what you eat. However, everyone is different, and certain foods may aggravate your ulcerative colitis symptoms.
Important Advice: Food is not the cause of ulcerative colitis, but keeping track of what you eat is the best way to figure out if you are sensitive to different foods.
A well-balanced diet helps replace nutrients
Good nutrition is one of the ways the body restores itself to good health, so maintaining proper nutrition is important to help manage your UC because:
- Having ulcerative colitis can reduce your appetite
- Chronic diseases tend to increase the energy needs of the body, especially during disease flares
- Conditions may improve with nutritional support
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and/or a dietitian about making sure you are getting enough nutrients and calories, and to customize your diet for you. Your own experience, with the guidance of your doctor and a dietitian, is the most useful way you can figure out what to eat.
However, these suggestions may work for some people with ulcerative colitis:
- Limit dairy products
- Try low-fat foods
- Experiment with fiber
- Avoid “gassy” foods
- Eat smaller meals
- Drink plenty of water
Ulcerative colitis and exercise
Getting regular exercise is an important part of staying healthy. Being active and exercising regularly can help you:
Boost your overall health
Control your weight
Strengthen your immune system
Improve your mood
Reduce depression and anxiety
An added benefit for people with ulcerative colitis is that regular exercise may minimize the occurrence of extra-intestinal (beyond the intestines) symptoms. Even if you have an ostomy, you can exercise as long as your bag is secure. For example, if you choose to go swimming, you may want to use waterproof tape.
When you’re having a flare-up, or when you feel particularly tired, you may not feel like being active. You should check with your doctor to see if you can start exercising once you get your symptoms under control, you can eat regularly, and you are getting enough sleep.
Because everyone is different, you should also ask your doctor about what exercise he or she recommends for you.
If you already have an ostomy or will be getting one, you may have special concerns about how active you can be. The United Ostomy Associations of America is a good place to find information.
Taking care of your emotional, as well as your physical health, is essential to your well-being—with or without ulcerative colitis. Seeking out the care of a psychologist or counselor, or belonging to a support group can be an effective way to voice your concerns, ask questions, and learn from other people who may be going through similar things as you. There are also communities and forums online that can help. Support groups and online communities can often be found on foundation websites.
Brandi Chastain, world-renowned soccer player and IBD caregiver, talks to IBD psychiatrist Dr. Eva Szigethy about finding motivation and the importance of keeping focused on your goals.
Eva Szigethy, Ph.D., M.D., M.S., is a Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She specializes in the psychological impact of chronic digestive diseases.