Last Updated on July 17, 2023 by Steven Root
Firstly, Who Am I And Do I Know What I’m Talking About?
Before we get into the finer details of your ulcerative colitis / Crohn’s disease diet plan..
My name is Steven Root and I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (pancolitis) back in 2006. It was later suspected to be Crohn’s Disease based on other symptoms I was having.
Nonetheless, I’ve been drug free and symptom free for many years now, and I’ve coached hundreds of people with ulcerative colitis & Crohn’s disease and helped them use diet and lifestyle to achieve normal colonoscopy results and normal inflammatory marker scores.
If you want to work with me, you can do that by clicking here.
You can also see my personal inflammatory marker scores in this video.
It’s important to note that not everybody should use the same diet plan. It will need to be individually tailored to you.
The below is aimed at giving you a good starting point, and some principles to follow in building out your own ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease diet plan 🙂
Also, this is NOT medical advice.
Speak to your doctor or other licensed professional before implementing any diet or anything else you may see on this website or any of my other social channels.
What You Will Learn About Building Your Ulcerative Colitis & Crohn’s Diet Plan This Post
When implementing a diet to stay symptom free, there are several rules that I’ve seen be very effective both for myself and for my clients.
It’s those rules that you are going to learn, so that you can go and cook some meals that you can enjoy whilst keeping your ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease symptoms away.
Again though, please consider that everyone is different.
One person’s food is another person’s poison.
So if you know or experience any of the following to not be true for YOUR body, don’t do it.
Rule Number 1 – Test Each Food
The first part of creating your Crohn’s & ulcerative colitis diet plan that keeps your symptoms at bay, is testing.
This can be a painful process, but it would be wrong of me to not point out that you really should do it.
You should test every food that you are consuming or plan to consume.
Use only whole foods. More on this later..
- Follow an elimination diet for 14-21 days. The goal of this is to get you symptom free if you’re not already (if you need help with this click here), and prepare your immune system to ‘show’ you which foods you react to.
- Consume 1 x serving of the new food you are testing once per day for 4 days, in addition to the foods you were previously eating. Only test 1 new food at a time. The new food can be consumed with other foods.
- Observe for symptoms. Symptoms (outside of the obvious ulcerative colitis & Crohn’s disease symptoms like bleeding) can include but are not limited to stomach pain / discomfort, gas, belching, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, skin rashes / itching, difficulty breathing, and others.
- If you do not experience any symptoms, then you can continue eating the food. If you do, then the food should be discontinued for now.
- If a food does give you symptoms, this does not mean you will never be able to eat it. If there is a food that you would very much like to include, I would recommend retesting from time to time – perhaps every 3 months or so.
Your ability to handle certain foods will generally change over time as your gut barrier integrity is restored and your bacteria (that produce the enzymes responsible for digestion) regrow.
It is also possible that any symptoms you observed previously were not due to this food.
Rule Number 2 – Focus on Serving Sizes
Remember, oftentimes it’s the dose that makes the poison.
Always be sensible.
This is a common pitfall for many people.
Your tolerance to certain foods is commonly dependent on the serving size, not on the food itself.
If you are unsure of what a sensible serving size is, you can start with 0.5-0.75 cups (when cooked) of the given food.
If in doubt, start small. Obviously.
Rule Number 3 – Eliminate Gluten and Dairy, Generally
Gluten, or more specifically gliadin, stimulates zonulin production that in turn increases intestinal permeability, AKA ‘Leaky Gut’.
This increased gut permeability makes us more susceptible to an autoimmune response.
This post isn’t meant to be a science lesson, but you can check this study out if you want to learn a little more about the process itself.
Noteworthily, several studies have also found that the casein protein in dairy behaves similarly to gluten / gliadin in our guts, and may also promote leaky gut.
This would explain why coeliac’s often show cross-reactivity to many dairy products.
And to be very plain for a second…
^ That very basic fact is important.
It’s important to add though, that not all dairy is created equal.
In fact, certain types of fermented dairy have actually been shown to improve serum zonulin levels and may help to improve leaky gut. See here.
And we could also muddy the water even more and say that other lectins (gliadin is a lectin) and lectin-like proteins can also cause issues..
But, I’m here to give you the broad brush strokes and attempt to simplify things.
So to keep it basic…
Stay away from dairy and gluten in your UC / Crohn’s disease diet plan and you’ll be off to a good start.
Rule Number 4 – Use Only Whole Foods
The world of nutrition ‘science’ is incredibly divisive.
As such, the world of ulcerative colitis & Crohn’s disease diet plans is equally as divisive.
There are a large number of conflicting opinions, and just about everyone can back up their point with a ‘scientific’ study.
Probably the most noteworthy example of this is that old vegan vs carnivore / animal foods debate.
It seems though, luckily, that we can all (just about) agree on one thing.
Whether it’s an ulcerative colitis or a Crohn’s disease recipe, or whether you’re vegan or carnivore, whole foods are the way to go.
Whole foods include most animal foods, and all fruits and vegetables that are unprocessed.
If you’re unsure about whether or not something is a whole food, ask yourself if it is ‘as nature made it’..?
If the answer is no, consider not including it in your diet or recipe.
Examples would include-
- Using honey (if you have to) instead of table sugar / artificial sweeteners
- Not using grains (yes, these are processed foods)
- Using sauces with whole food ingredients instead of those containing sugars, flours/starches
- Not using alternative milks, or any store-bought dairy (pasteurizing is processing)
And there are of course some exceptions to this rule that are generally well tolerated, some of which include
- Ground meats which are generally fine
- As are most cooking fats & oils EXCEPT for seed oils
- Condiments such as salt, pepper, turmeric are also usually fine EXCEPT if they’re seed derived AND consumed in large quantities. Condiments that are seed derived are usually fine in small amounts.
Remember that not all whole foods are created equal.
And not all whole foods are guaranteed to keep you symptom free. For example, many people will have issues if they over consume nuts and nightshades..
However it’s still a solid rule to follow.
Rule Number 5 – Choosing The Best Cooking Methods
All foods in your ulcerative colitis / Crohn’s disease diet plan, whether animal or plant based, should be soft and tender.
Foods that are soft and tender are easier for us to mechanically break down in our mouths and stomachs.
This in turn exposes a larger surface area of the food to the enzymes that both we and our gut bacteria produce.
Therefore digestion is enhanced, and there is less chance of undigested foods making their way to the latter parts of our digestive tracts to feed troublesome gut bacteria and potentially get into our blood stream, causing an autoimmune response.
Note – if you’ve been symptom free for a while, there’s a high likelihood that you will be able to digest foods that are less tender, so you can get more creative with the cooking methods.
This all being said, the preferred cooking methods for Crohn’s & ulcerative colitis diet recipes are-
- Animal foods: baking, pressure cooking, low heat frying
- Plant foods: pressure cooking, steaming, boiling
Some people, though, will be able to use high heat frying and other cooking methods that leave foods crispy on the outside even when resolving symptoms.
However, the recommendations above apply if you are unsure of the cooking method you can tolerate.
Rule Number 6 – Limit Sugar And Sweeteners
Whether you’re vegan, carnivore, or somewhere in the middle, sugar and sweeteners are generally not a good idea.
And they certainly shouldn’t form any meaningful part of an ulcerative colitis / Crohn’s disease diet plan.
I’m talking about things like table sugar, honey (yes even honey is a problem for many IBD folks), and other artificial sweeteners.
Sugar from whole fruits is a different story since whole fruits include the fiber which slows (and ultimately hampers) digestion.
This means that the sugar from fruit isn’t as highly available and doesn’t as readily feed ‘bad’ gut bacteria.
Note though, that I’ve still had several clients for whom even the high sugar content in fruits is too much.
You need to work out where on the spectrum you stand.
If you’re unsure, start with very low sugar foods & recipes.
Manuka honey – in both personal and client experience, I don’t see this being a better honey than any other. The antimicrobial properties haven’t been exhibited in vivo to my knowledge. Which is to say it’s petri dish science that ‘proves’ it’s antimicrobial properties.
Monk fruit – not the worst idea, but still not a great one. I’ve seen this make plenty of people gassy and cause digestive discomfort.
Personally, if there is a recipe for which I need to sweeten something, I will opt either for raw, organic honey or pure, powdered, organic stevia.
Rule Number 7 – If In Doubt, De-Skin and De-Seed
Whilst most of the time consuming the skins and seeds of plant foods is not an issue, especially when you are not in a flare, if you’re in doubt it can be a good idea to avoid them.
The skins and seeds are where most of the lectins & anti-nutrients (which impact absorption of valuable minerals & play a role in autoimmunity), and other troublesome compounds are found.
Not all lectins are created equal and some are very well tolerated.
In fact, a lot of ‘troublesome’ compounds in plants convey health benefits to humans through their hormetic effect.
That being said, if in doubt, remove.
The same rule applies to nuts.
If in doubt, and certainly if you’re in a flare, remove.
Remember that we’re all human.
Life is to be enjoyed.
So treat yourself sometimes.
Just don’t make eating poorly the norm.
90/10 rule my friends.
Eat the foods that you KNOW are healthful for you most of the time.
This will afford you the ability to throw caution to the wind some of the time.
If you want help in building our your ulcerative colitis / Crohn’s disease diet plan, click here and I’ll be happy to help.