Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects your large intestine. More than 750,000 people in North America alone live with this condition. If you’re one of them, you know that ulcerative colitis is marked by inflammation and painful ulcers.
Gastroenterologist Eric Ibegbu, MD, and our team at Atlantic Medical Group can diagnose and treat ulcerative colitis with medications and/or surgery.
If you’re suffering from painful flare-ups and GI discomfort, we suggest scheduling a visit with us. A colonoscopy can confirm the cause of your symptoms so you can get the right treatment.
In the meantime, you can lower your risk for colitis flare-ups with these tips.
1. Keep a food diary
There isn’t one specific food that causes colitis, but certain foods can trigger a flare-up. Everyone’s triggers are different, so keeping a food diary can help you pinpoint your specific dietary triggers.
Common dietary triggers for colitis include:
- High fiber foods
- Dried beans
- Raw vegetables
To determine your triggers, write down everything that you eat and drink, and track your symptoms. This helps you correlate specific foods with your flare-ups.
Note: If you can’t eat a well-balanced diet, we may suggest supplements, such as iron or calcium supplements.
2. Watch your fiber intake
Fiber is generally important for your digestive health, but it can trigger a colitis flare-up. If you know that high fiber foods are problematic for you, try swapping out higher fiber foods for lower fiber foods.
Low fiber foods include:
- Cooked fruit (skip the peels and seeds though)
- Pulp-free juice
- Cooked meat
Cooking tip: If raw vegetables are a trigger for you, try cooking them. Steaming, boiling, or even roasting vegetables can help remove some fiber from the vegetables.
3. Squeeze more exercise into your daily routine
Exercise has many benefits for your physical and mental health. And it can help you manage the anxiety and stress associated with ulcerative colitis.
Gentle exercises like walking and yoga are exceptionally helpful. Research has shown that exercise in conjunction with other interventions like medication helped to reduce symptoms, improve immunological response, and improve nutrition levels.
Other low-intensity options include swimming, biking, and gentle stretching.
4. Find new stress management techniques
Stress can trigger a colitis flare-up, so practice stress management techniques to reduce as much external stress on your body as possible.
Why does stress affect irritable bowel diseases so easily? Cortisol (the stress hormone) can increase inflammation in your body, and learning to manage stress can help you reduce that inflammatory response.
Reduce your stress levels through:
- Daily exercise
- Practicing mindfulness
- Practicing deep breathing
- Prioritizing self-care
Self-care includes getting enough sleep each night, following a well-balanced diet, and setting aside time for your favorite activities each day.
5. Change your meal size
Do your symptoms intensify after a large meal? If you find that eating three meals causes flare-ups, trade three large meals for six small meals. You can also track this information in your food diary.
6. Don’t skip your medication
If you already have prescription medication for colitis, take your medication as prescribed. Don’t skip your medicine, even if you feel better.
If you need help remembering to take your medication, use a reminder on your phone and/or set a sticky note on your keys
Sticking with your medication schedule can help you stay in remission and avoid a flare-up.
When flare-ups become habitual
If you continue to have flare-ups, it’s time to give us a call. You might just need an adjustment to your medication — or a new medication. Regardless, getting colitis under control is essential for preventing unwanted complications like toxic megacolon or bowel perforations.
If you have concerns about colitis flare-ups, call our Kinston or Jacksonville, North Carolina, clinic today.