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What is the Best Diet for Colitis?

A.E. Freeman
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. People who suffer from it can experience bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, or an inability to move the bowels. While the inflammation of the intestine is not necessarily caused by the foods a person eats, some people may have a worsening of symptoms after eating dairy products or foods that commonly cause gas. The best diet for colitis may be one that avoids too much fiber, dairy, and alcohol, and that includes plenty of protein, refined grains, and healthy fats. An effective meal plan may require that a person trade in three larger meals for five or six small ones each day.

When coming up with the best diet for colitis, a person should record everything he consumes and note any symptoms he experienced after eating a certain food so that he can avoid it in future. Some people may find that it's best to avoid dairy products. Lactose in milk and other dairy products can make symptoms flare up. In some cases, taking lactase may help calm the condition.

Some people also benefit from restricting their fiber intake. Fiber can be beneficial for some colitis sufferers but can also trigger symptoms in others. A person with colitis may want to experiment with the amount and type of fiber he eats. For instance, if eating raw vegetables makes a person's colitis worse, he may want to avoid them. He should try peeling vegetables and fruits before eating them and gently cooking them.

Whole grains, such as wheat bread and brown rice, should also be avoided on a restricted fiber diet. Other foods to avoid include nuts and beans. A person on a low fiber diet can eat meat, but should avoid tough, gristly cuts.

Some people find that soda and alcohol trigger colitis symptoms and have to eliminate those beverages from their diets. In place of soda and alcohol, a person should make sure to drink plenty of water to keep his symptoms under control. Some patients may be placed on a clear liquid only diet after a serious flare up or surgery. Those patients should consume only clear liquids such as broth, decaffeinated tea, and light colored, non-citrus juice.

When making changes to his diet, a person should consult a nutritionist to make sure he is still getting the nutrients his body needs to function properly. Some people may need to take a multivitamin to make up for the amount of food they have cut from their diets. Calcium supplements may be required by people who have cut dairy from their lives.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A.E. Freeman
By A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and retention. With a background in the arts, she combines her writing prowess with best practices to deliver compelling content across various domains and effectively connect with target audiences.
Discussion Comments
By anon1001758 — On Jun 19, 2019

Thank you so much! I am in my 2nd week of C Diff. I never thought of baby food either.

By anon945526 — On Apr 13, 2014

I'm not sure how old this post is, but here goes. I have microscopic colitis that I can manage without meds as long as I watch my diet. Absolutely no gluten or dairy. Only cooked vegetables. I eat bananas and canned peaches and peel an apple if I am going to eat it.

There is a book by Wayne Persky online that has a lot of great information for people with microscopic colitis. The key is bland food, no spices. I can't tolerate vegetable oil either. It has to be olive or coconut oil. Good luck. It's a rough road to navigate, but it is doable.

By anon356505 — On Nov 25, 2013

I have been suffering from colitis for a year and a half now. My stools are loose, and I don't see blood, but it's not cramping this time, just a dull pain in my back and my lower left abdomen. So my question is who else feels this?

By anon315820 — On Jan 25, 2013

Can anyone tell me what the safest alcohol to drink is with microscopic colitis?

By Sam123 — On May 24, 2012

If you have been recently diagnosed with C diff, you need to know this is not the kind of disease where you lie in bed waiting for your body to heal you; you might just die with that approach. If you can get out of bed then do so, find out more about the disease, exercise, and most of all eat, even if seems that all of it is just being turned into diarrhea.

I lost 40 pounds over the course of the five months following my diagnosis with way too much of that time spent lying in bed waiting for something to happen. During that time, my colon was being attacked by bacteria that was hell-bent on turning my body into a C diff production facility.

You need to get on Vancomycin (or whatever antibiotic your doctor recommends), visit a naturopath for probiotics and supplements that will help but like I said, most of all, eat.

Although at the time I thought I was given a bum steer to follow the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and white bread Toast) it is a valid starting point in many ways. Consider all the things made from rice: rice bread, rice bagels, rice flour, rice wraps, rice buns and rice milk. Don’t be the least bit worried about the bagels being over 300 calories each. You need calories, just like you need lots of water. Your body requires a lot of water to make all that diarrhea it is producing so drink two or three tall glasses per day, plus one more for every bowel movement you have. My bum looks like two dried-up wineskins lying in the sun; don’t let this happen to you!

Depending on how much your colon has been damaged you will probably be able to eat some flatfish such as sole. My suggestion: bread the fish with rice breading, then bake in an oven for 15 minutes at 400F. Just toast the bread first, pulverize it in your blender, dip your moistened fish into the mixture and lay on aluminum foil, which has been sprayed first with Pam or the like. Another idea: if the previous recipe doesn’t make your diarrhea worse, then try adding cilantro to your pulverized breading mixture. Serve with applesauce which has just become your favorite condiment. (Acidic ingredients make my diarrhea worse so ketchup, mustard, lemon juice and citric acid are all out until your colon has healed more.)

If you can eat fish, then if I were a guessing man, I would say you could probably also eat chicken. I suggest mixing a pound of ground chicken with rice bread bits, four or five slices worth, and cilantro as well. Bake, or better yet, barbecue, remembering to toast the rice bun. Serve with applesauce and/or avocado which has just become your second favorite condiment.

A good breakfast is toasted bagels with margarine and all natural peanut butter covered with banana slices. A variation that also works is toasted bread slices instead of bagels.

Keep a journal of all that goes in to your body and all that comes out. As time goes on you’ll begin to understand what your toilet is telling you.

By anon158850 — On Mar 08, 2011

Thanks anon115849. This is so helpful and concisely put together in one place. I will try this diet from today.

By Charlie89 — On Nov 19, 2010

Can you tell me what the best diet for microscopic colitis sufferers might be? My brother was just diagnosed with it after a long struggle with trying to figure out what was going on, and now it seems like he can't eat anything.

The doctor pretty much banned all of his normal foods, but we figured that there had to be some kind of normal diet for colitis sufferers out there. Do you guys have any tips on good foods for microscopic colitis sufferers, and how to make them?

He's not a great chef, so try to keep it simple if you can, for both our sakes. We're really at sea here though, and would appreciate any help or advice anybody can give us.

Thanks so much!

By StreamFinder — On Nov 19, 2010

One thing that can be good to do if you're suffering from colitis is to follow an elimination diet.

Doing this does take some effort, but its worth it in the end. OK, here's what you do:

First, get a food diary, or just a notebook, and list out all the foods you eat in a day, along with beverages, and the amounts in which you eat them.

You should also record your stress levels on particular days, since stress and tension can impact colitis as well.

Then whenever you have a flare up, look back at the previous three days to see if you ate any foods that could have caused it.

Foods can stay in your system for up to three days at a time, so this is why you need to look back for that amount of time.

When you find a suspect food, cut it out of your diet entirely for the next two weeks. If your symptoms get better, then Bingo! You've found a trigger food. If you don't show any signs of improvement, then you can slowly and gradually start adding that food back in to your diet.

Eventually you will have worked through all your normal foods, and figure out what all your triggers are. If need be, you can also devise a special diet for colitis flare ups, if you can't avoid eating a food that triggers one.

After you've got all that figured out, you should be able to avoid the majority of colitis problems, and get on with your life.

Good luck!

By FirstViolin — On Nov 19, 2010

My father in law has been suffering from colitis flare ups for years, and he's tried almost every diet on the planet for IBS, colitis, ulcerative colitis, even Crohn's disease.

And out of all of those diets for colitis patients, he still hasn't found one that can cope with the flare ups. Although he normally does pretty OK on a basic diet for people with ulcerative colitis, he still gets terrible flare ups, even with the most bland foods.

He's scheduled to go in for colitis surgery in a few months, and we're all just hoping that it can help him out, because he's just had such a hard time with this.

Anybody out there with this condition, I really sympathize with you -- this is really, really hard to deal with.

By anon115849 — On Oct 04, 2010

A diet for antibiotic (clostridium difficile) induced psudomembraneous colitis

Let me get this out right off the bat. I am not a doctor, nor a dietician, or anyone else of any authority to advise anyone on health concerns. My knowledge on this matter is strictly from first-hand experience. I feel it necessary to tell my story because I found little information available about a recovery diet for people afflicted with colitis caused by antibiotic use.

This isn’t Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s Disease, nor is this form of Ulcerative Colitis treatable in the same way as traditional Ulcerative Colitis because it’s not an area that’s been damaged by radiation from cancer treatments, nor is it caused by a poor diet or parasites.

Psudomembraneous Colitis is the result of a resistant “bad” bacterium that survives a massive die-off caused by an antibiotic. This intestinal flora takes over when other intestinal flora is absent in your colon and remains dormant when there’s too much competition. Many foods that are acceptable for IBS, Crohn's, or Ulcerative Colitis are not OK in this situation because, not only is the colon damaged, but there are no probiotic bacteria left to aid proper digestion. Without knowing what foods you can tolerate it’s best to avoid all potential irritants until you improve.

Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff) is a bacterium that propagates through spore production. It also releases two toxins that irritate the colon, removing the outer layer of skin, causing puss pockets, and creating a foul smelling diarrhea. Not everyone has it, but finding out that you are one of the unlucky ones is a painful and unpleasant experience indeed.

For me, this nightmare started when I went to the dentist with a tooth abscess. Aside from a case of strep throat I have rarely taken antibiotics but in this case it was necessary. I was given a prescription of Clindamycin. It wasn’t until after I had taken the entire course of antibiotic that I started having warning symptoms of stomach cramps and frequent urgent bloody diarrhea. Some people show symptoms right away and need to stop medication. Others, like me, can experience symptoms as late as six weeks after finishing the course.

Since I didn’t have health insurance at the time I went to my local Doc-in-the-Box, along with my empty prescription bottle. I explained my dilemma and asked for Metronidazole, which is the treatment for C.Diff. The doctor seemed hesitant, saying I needed expensive tests and a colonoscopy — I can’t even imagine the torment of a colonoscopy under those circumstances. Look, I have never had any problems in my life; I took the pills and now have warning symptoms. Once I made it clear that I wasn’t going to have any expensive tests or a colonoscopy and that I wasn’t going to hold him accountable for coming to the same conclusion I had already come to, the doctor seemed OK with it. He gave me a prescription for Flagl (Metronidazole) and sent me home without any dietary guidance. I went home, ate banana pancakes, and before I could even pick up my prescription, I was sitting on the toilet very ill.

After getting my prescription, I went straight to bed. I had a fever, chills and extreme fatigue. When I wasn’t in the bathroom, I was asleep. My husband offered me some eggs cooked in butter the next morning and I nearly turned green. They say one of the symptoms is that you don’t want to eat. I wanted to eat. I wanted something that wasn’t going to make me sick. I just didn’t know what that was. The Metronidazole helped me quite a bit, however, because since I didn’t know how to take care of myself I kept relapsing, which is bad because the longer you are sick the more likely you will wind up with serious damage and very resistant bacteria.

I spoke to a friend of mine whose brother had Crohn’s. She bought him a book on IBD 18 years ago. She still had the book and offered it to me. Her husband, who is an RN was home when I picked it up and we went through it. He was open about the fact that he had little experience with this problem and only had one client with the bacteria so he had limited knowledge on what to do. He told me to go on the clear diet in the book, which included black tea and orange juice. Then, go on the liquid diet which recommended milk and coffee. I politely took the book but was hesitant about the advice. My body said that it had it all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

So if my doctor doesn’t tell me what to do, and a nurse doesn’t know what to tell me, then what was I to do? I started to research the topic and found very little good advice. I learned by research, trial and painful error. I hope to save others the pain and grief I went through by telling what worked for me and what was harmful. If anything listed below doesn’t help you, then please stop doing it. Maybe you will come up with more advice to share. If you are allergic to anything on this diet I am sorry, because that is one more thing in a long list of things that you can’t eat. It’s bland, but it’s not forever. The purpose of this diet is restorative, not a lifestyle change.

Also, if you can get someone to do some shopping for you it would be a big, big help. The fatigue is so extreme as to make you immobile. Some of the items I found at Save Mart or Safeway but a few, like the probiotics, crackers, and gluten free pasta I found only at Whole Foods, which caters to specialty diets, so look there first. Don’t forget to keep a food journal.

Avoid: animal fat, lactose, refined sugars/honey, citric acid, gluten, seeds/nuts/corn/popcorn/fiber/bran/ brown rice/quinoa, cauliflower/broccoli/brussel sprouts/ cabbage/beans/peas/legumes, salt/spices,

caffeine, coffee, carbonated beverages, alcohol, inulin.

There are always exceptions to the rule and some foods do more good than harm. So if you see something contradictory listed below. there’s probably a good reason for it

First things first. Give the colon a break! My friend had a good point – the colon needs a rest. Your colon isn’t working properly. Plus, the muscles have been over-active and spasmodic. Give your colon at least a day off to reset.

Remember, I never tried this part, but if I were to get sick again here’s what I would do.

Definitely: Drink plenty of smartwater to replace lost electolytes.

Do not drink flavored electrolyte water such as Gatorade. These contain citric acid.

Pacific natural foods low salt chicken broth, a multivitamin with vitamin k and a probiotic supplement.

I went to Whole Foods to buy a probiotic gut culture. I explained my condition and told them I didn’t need the most expensive, just the best.

Possibly: Drink diluted apple juice and tea. Tea is one of those more good than harm items. The anti-oxidant, tannin, in tea is less effective in decaffeinated tea. Black tea has more tannin than green tea but green tea is lighter and has less caffeine. Try lightly brewing hot green tea and making iced tea from a black tea to dilute it sufficiently.

If you decide to take a fiber supplement, take something like citrucel without citric acid only

Avoid fiber supplements with psyllium husks, which can damage the colon and supplements with inulin, which promotes bacteria growth.

So, you’ve given your colon a break. Now what? How do you get from chicken broth to eating solid food again without relapsing? For me it was baby food, but you can fix your own vegetables if you are feeling a little more energetic. Try to keep foods as natural and bland as possible.

Transitional food stage 1: Continue with vitamins, probiotics, and water. Switch to tap water if desired when you begin to loose that constant thirst. Drink tea and broth as desired.

Gerber Second Foods. Select baby food that contains no other ingredient but water, i.e. squash and water, or sweet potatoes and water, etc.

Make your own baby food. Peel skins from vegetables. Steam them in as little water as possible to keep from losing nutrients then puree. Sauté tomatoes until the skins peel off. Eat plain avocadoes.

Lifeway kefir yogurt smoothies. Plain yogurt is best but I can’t handle that. Make sure there is no citric acid. When selecting a yogurt, do not choose the flavors orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or pineapple. I suggest a brand like Lifeway that has cane juice instead of high fructose corn syrup and many active cultures. Although I don’t advise inulin, in this case it promotes the growth of the cultures in the kefir.

The next best thing. Transitional foods stage 2:

Continue supplementation and yogurt. Eat and drink from above as desired.

Fix fresh or frozen vegetables by steaming. Use as little water as possible to retain nutrients. Continue to peel skins first. Peel potatoes and bake or microwave them.

Eat plain white rice. Do not eat brown rice because the husks can damage you.

Eat eggs. If you need to use something to keep it from sticking then use cooking spray or a little vegetable oil.

Eat poached chicken with the skin peeled or poached fish. Eat tuna packed in water

Eat low salt creamy peanut butter without additives like Adams 100% natural peanut butter.

Eat gluten free crackers like Edward & Sons unsalted plain brown rice snaps

Eat gluten free pasta like Ancient Harvest quinoa.

Look for changes in your stool. I never thought I would have to examine my stool for texture, color, or smell, but it’s necessary. As things begin to appear more normal, slowly introduce items into your diet. Try to add only one item at a time if possible. Then try a small salad with a bit of oil and vinegar. If you don’t have any problems then add it to your diet and try something else that’s not too extreme. Take baby steps and ease up a bit if you have pain or notice negative changes. It may take a while but you can get back to normal. Here's to your health!

A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and...
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