Nutritional therapists contend that altering the diet may eliminate ulcerative colitis or reduce its harmful effects. Food allergies (or sensitivities) are thought to contribute to the onset of colon inflammation. Wheat, corn, and dairy products are common allergens. Following an elimination diet will reveal if any foods make the symptoms worse.
Once the colon is inflamed, it no longer performs at peak. This can lead to an upset in the normal bacterial makeup of the intestines and to nutritional deficiencies. A therapy called probiotics aims to reestablish the ideal levels of the natural intestinal bacteria. Bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus can be taken in powder, capsule, or liquid form (however, this bacteria should be avoided if the patient is lactose intolerant).
Another serious concern in both types of colitis is nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies may result for several reasons:
- People with the disorder may eat less than needed as a way of avoiding diarrhea and abdominal pain.
- Chronic diarrhea can lead to the loss of nutrients.
- Some of the drugs used in conventional treatment (such as corticosteroids) may interrupt nutrient metabolism.
- Mucosal irregularities can result in poor nutrient absorption.
These patients, therefore, can benefit from taking supplements orally or by injection and eating smaller, more frequent meals.
An elimination diet can help the health practitioner and patient link any foods with an aggravation of symptoms. Here's how it might work:
- For two to three weeks, the patient's commonly eaten foods are eliminated from the diet. Instead, the diet should consist of foods -- such as rice, lamb, iceberg lettuce, cranberries, cherries, apples, olive oil, apricots, peaches, and spinach -- that are not usually associated with allergies.
- If symptoms have subsided or not appeared by the end of this period, then the food challenges can begin. If the symptoms are still present, then more foods should be eliminated from the diet.
- Commonly eaten foods are reintroduced, one at a time, every two days, noting if any symptoms appear.