Medical Q&As

Ulcerative colitis - special diet?

Two months ago my 19-year-old son was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. He has been on medication since but it is not working very well. He still has the same symptoms but slightly less often. Can you recommend a diet that would suit him? None of the doctors has said that diet is important yet he knows some foods do not agree with him. It would be nice to know in advance what is good and what is not suitable in order to avoid the foods that exacerbate the condition.

There is no universal ďone size fits allĒ type of diet for ulcerative colitis. Each personís experience of the disease is unique for that individual and each person may find that particular foods exacerbate their condition. In a few people, milk can make symptoms worse, but the majority of sufferers can take milk products without harm. Similarly some people find that highly seasoned food makes their symptoms worse but many do not. Your son may be absolutely correct that in his particular case certain foods donít agree with him but his pattern could be quite different to another person with ulcerative colitis. It would be reasonable to exclude the particular foods that you are suspicious about from your sonís diet for a few weeks. If his condition improves that suggests that the particular food may be affecting him. If you then reintroduce that food when he is well and his symptoms return it is reasonable to infer that the food does not agree with him. In other words the proof involves a two-stage process: stopping the food when he is symptomatic and returning it to the diet when he is well. You cannot deduce that a particular food aggravates his condition because he gets better when you stop it because the nature of the condition is that it undergoes remission and relapse. So how do you know if your son was getting better anyway? You will find plenty of definite advice on the Internet regarding special diets for ulcerative colitis but none are of proven benefit and some are downright harmful. However, I do believe in the notion of people trusting their instincts. If your son is suspicious of certain foods you might consider adopting the approach that I have described.