What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is simply put, chronic inflammation of the large intestines, or colon. It is a condition of irritable bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis develops when the immune system become overly active, causing the large intestine to become inflamed. This chronic inflammation is accompanied by small sores, or ulcerations.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include diarrhea and rectal bleeding, joint pain, anemia, as well as stomach cramping. Depending on the area of the colon that is infected, other symptoms may occur, such as weight loss, bowel urgency, and fever.
While many doctors don't prescribe any certain diet for someone with ulcerative colitis, most agree that a soft, bland diet is sometimes necessary during an attack, and a balanced, nutritious diet is best. Elaine Gottschall, however, has introduced the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, originally developed by Drs. Sidney and Merrill Haas. It is recommended for those who suffer from a host of intestinal disorders. She believes that the diet works to make drastic changes in the lives of people suffering from ulcerative colitis.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet in a Nutshell
This diet works on the premise that people who suffer from intestinal disorders, including ulcerative colitis, have trouble digesting complex carbohydrates. These undigested carbohydrates encourage the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms, such as candida. The vicious cycle occurs when these bacteria multiply, causing malabsorption problems, gas, and excessive mucous production/inflammation. Undigested carbohydrates put a huge stress on the digestive system, which can cause many different symptoms and problems throughout the body, including the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
The specific carbohydrate diet effectively eliminates complex carbohydrates from the diet, and replaces them with certain types of carbohydrates that are easily digested. As a result, bacterial overgrowth dies out, and the health of the intestinal tract is greatly improved. Many cases of people regaining their health as a result of following this diet for a long period of time act as evidence of its effectiveness.
Fresh and frozen unprocessed meats are fine. Stay away from processed meats.
The following fresh or frozen fruits are allowed on the diet. Apples, avocados, apricots, well-ripened bananas only, berries, cherries, coconut, dates, grapes, lemons/limes, mango, oranges, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapples raisins and tangerines. Fruit juices should have no added sugars.
Most non-starchy vegetables can be eaten on the diet. Choose frozen or fresh vegetables, however without added chemical ingredients. Canned foods are not permitted.
Most nuts are allowed, such as almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts and brazil nuts. Many baked goods can be made from almond flour.
Weak teas and coffee are fine, but no sugar should be used as a sweetener. Instead, use clear honey. Peppermint and spearmint herbal teas are also allowed.
Butter, most natural cheeses, homemade yogurt (fermented for 24 hours) and dry curd cottage cheese may be used.
What Not to Eat
Meat Products to Avoid
Avoid processed meats, such as hot dogs, bologna, ham, canned meats, smoked meats, bacon or sausage.
All grains are prohibited on this diet, including rice, wheat/gluten, barley, corn, oats, rye, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and spelt. Breads, cereals, and flours made from any grain source are not allowed either. In addition, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, garbanzo beans, fava beans, soybeans and okra.
Sugars are not allowed in any form on this diet, except for clear honey. Organic honey is best. Saccharin is the only other sweetener that may be used in small amounts.
Milk may not be used on the diet. This includes ice cream, buttermilk, and sour cream. Mozzerella, cream cheese and cottage cheese are not allowed.
While the specific carbohydrate diet may be restrictive, there are many delicious foods allowed. The main benefit is the restoration of intestinal health that may come from trying the diet for at least a year. Be aware that Dr. Gottschall emphasizes the importance of strict adherence to the diet for best results. For those looking for a diet for someone with ulcerative colitis, the specific carbohydrate diet is healthy and worth the effort.
1. Breaking the Viscious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet, by Elaine Gottschall, BA, MSc., 12th edition: Kirkton Press, Ltd, Jan. 2007.
2. Medicine Net: https://www.medicinenet.com/ulcerative_colitis/article.htm