When you eat foods that are high in micronutrients while also being low in sugar, you feed your cells for healthy growth and you lower inflammation.
When you try to figure out a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet that can help ease colitis, first you must identify the “killer foods” that worsen your problems. You may have to avoid sodas, fried foods, beer, red wine and spicy meats. You may find that you can’t eat certain high-fiber foods raw, including fruits, beans, cabbage, broccoli and other vegetables. So you have to steam, bake or stew them. Bread, sweet desserts and milk may also cause you problems.
Avoid the following foods because they are inflammatory or worsen bowel dysbiosis:
- Foods with preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavors: This usually includes food ingredients with long, difficult-to-pronounce chemical names. Unfortunately, this eliminates most frozen ready-made meals and processed foods that come in a bag, box or can.
- Refined sugar foods and drinks that fuel bacteria and yeast growth in the intestines: When these organisms overgrow, they produce toxins and acids, potentially causing injury to the intestine lining. They can also impair the function of digestive enzymes that are required for nutrient absorption.
- Processed meats: Like hot dogs, luncheon meats, etc.
- Processed grains: Such as commercial cereals, breads, pasta, crackers, cookies, etc.
Make sure you get extra amounts of these:
- Omega-3 oils: Contained in fish, flaxseed oil, olives, nuts and spinach.
- Vegetables: Dark leafy greens, yellow and orange veggies, peas, green and yellow beans, garlic, leeks, onions, and carrots.
- Fruits: Berries, apricots, apples, plums, cherries, kiwi and figs.
- Protein: From meat such as seafood, chicken, turkey, lamb or eggs; also can be consumed from non-meat sources such as nuts, seeds, beans or protein powder.
- Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and sprouted grains.
Be aware that certain foods can be antigenic, promoting an immune response and inflammation. For example, bread contains gluten, a common antigen that causes problems in many people.
(However, sprouting wheat turns it from a grain to a vegetable, with increased micronutrients.) It is important to avoid foods that trigger inflammation. Most commonly, these include refined sugar, wheat, dairy (e.g., cow milk protein), corn and sometimes certain fruits or vegetables.
Ironically, the foods we crave most can often be the very foods causing the most immune hypersensitivity (allergy).
Even cooked food can often be inflammatory. That’s why raw foods are recommended, but they must be prepared in such a way that they can be easily digested and absorbed in an already inflamed gut (e.g., juicing and smoothies).
A study done by the Swiss doctor Paul Kouchakoff, M.D., entitled “The Influence of Food Cooking on the Blood Formula of Man,” was presented in Paris at the First International Congress of Microbiology in 1930. In this work, Kouchakoff showed that eating cooked food causes the human body to have a white blood cell (leukocytosis) reaction, similar to a leukocytosis reaction that occurs when you get a bacterial or viral infection. He demonstrated that the most inflammatory reaction occurred when subjects ingested foods that were manufactured or processed or had chemical preservatives or dyes added. The body’s reaction was significantly less when they ate whole foods that are cooked. However, when his subjects ingested raw foods, there were no leukocytosis reactions detected.
How can you discover which foods are adding to the inflammation your gut? One way is a three- to five-day liquid cleanse. When only clear liquids are consumed, the body naturally dumps waste material from cells (aka “detoxification”) and eliminates it via the lungs, skin, urine and stool. This may cause a brief loss of water and body weight, but the process does some remarkable things to improve health.
First, it drastically quiets down immune hypersensitivity in the gut lining, bloodstream and most body tissues. Second, it suppresses unhealthy food cravings so you can have a fighting chance in today’s world of so many tasty inflammatory foods. Third, if foods that were formerly craved or suspected to be allergenic are added one at a time each week, colitis symptom changes can identify these culprit foods.
Immediately following three to five days of clear liquids, it is best to drink only freshly juiced liquids for another three to five days before advancing to solid foods. Solid foods should be carefully introduced, making sure to get enough calories from complex carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat sources. Cooked and raw forms of whole foods are always going to be the best choices. I suggest that people with colitis meet with a raw food/whole food educator (not a dietician who follows conventional training) in order to successfully implement this effectively in the home. Your local health food store will likely know who teaches this in your community.
Two Key Supplements That Go Along With A Nutrient-Rich Diet
As I discussed earlier, the best colitis diet is one containing predominately nutrient-rich whole foods. For nutrients to be digested and absorbed optimally, digestive enzymes are always recommended for someone with ulcerative colitis. A blend of digestive enzymes to breakdown sugars, proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates is best, taken with each meal. This is even more important when beginning a whole foods diet that is higher in fiber from raw foods.
Probiotics are another very valuable supplement to improve digestion and absorption. Moreover, probiotics promote gut health through a variety of mechanisms: They form a protective layer of healthy bacteria that improves nutrient absorption; they suppress inflammation caused by the toxic substances of yeast and unhealthy bacteria; and they reduce intestinal inflammation by stimulating local immune cells to protect these organs. Note that high doses of probiotics have proven to be effective in studies of ulcerative colitis patients.
- A study reported in 2003 examined the healing effect of supplementation with the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii in mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis patients on maintenance treatment with mesalamine. Italian researchers found that 17 of 25 patients achieved clinical remission (confirmed by endoscopy) after using a 250 mg Saccharomyces boulardii supplement three times daily for four weeks.
- In a 2005 placebo-controlled study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers used a probiotic mixture (www.vsl3.com) twice a day for six weeks to treat 32 patients with active mild to moderate ulcerative colitis who had failed a variety of standard treatments. An impressive 53 percent of patients experienced remission, plus 24 percent more found some degree of improvement (a total of 77 percent) with no adverse events. Colonic tissue sampling proved the presence of these probiotics at the diseased colon locations. The vsl#3 probiotic blend currently contains the Bifidobacterium species, Lactobacillus species and a Streptococcus thermophiles species.
- A 2009 placebo-controlled study in children (mean age 10 years) with follow-up evaluations at one month, two months, six months and one year using a similar probiotic preparation achieved remission in 13 patients (92.8 percent) in the probiotic group compared to four patients (36.4 percent) in the placebo group. Only three of 14 (21.4 percent) probiotic patients relapsed within one year of follow-up compared to 11 of 15 (73.3 percent) in the placebo group.
In my next article, I’ll list and discuss the best nutrient supplements for healing ulcerative colitis and also a natural therapy that may make your skin crawl (worm therapy).
Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research. Milwaukee 1, Wisconson
Pagnini C, Saeed R, et al. Probiotics promote gut health through stimulation of epithelial innate immunity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2010 Jan 5;107(1):454-9.
Bibiloni R, Fedorak RN, Tannock GW, et al. VSL#3 probiotic-mixture induces remission in patients with active ulcerative colitis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Jul;100(7):1539-46.
Miele E, Pascarella F, et al. Effect of a probiotic preparation (VSL#3) on induction and maintenance of remission in children with ulcerative colitis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 Feb;104(2):437-43.