The Gut Stuff Reader:
3 years ago I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and whilst I am fairly well most of the time, I am aware that there is no cure and I’m likely to be on medication for the rest of life. This bothers me… A lot! My doctors are always telling me that it has nothing to do with the foods that I eat but I can’t believe this, I’m convinced there must be foods that trigger or worsen the condition.
So my question is this, is there anything you can suggest that I should eat to keep my diseased gut as healthy as possible and are there any foods that I should absolutely avoid? Are there any tests I can have done that might indicate what foods my body doesn’t like? I look forward to hearing from you.
I’m really sorry to hear you have been battling ulcerative colitis, which is thought to be an autoimmune condition of the colon, which is the last department in your digestive system. For those reading this, I’ll explain briefly: your immune cells attack cells in your large intestine causing inflammation, ulcers, chronic loose stools often containing blood and mucus. It is a condition which I have supported people with. It’s interesting you are asking which foods to eat or leave out of your diet. Every case is different so this would be difficult to comment on here.
The main intervention that I’ve seen as a turning point has been intermittent fasting, also known as time-restricted feeding (TRF) or time-restricted eating (TRE) where you eat in an 8-hour window each day, and fast the other 16 hours (only water or herbal teas in this time). It is easier than it sounds – many people just skip or delay breakfast and eat between 11 am and 7 pm. I’ve seen ulcerative colitis symptoms improved in 4-6 weeks practicing this. After 6 weeks, switch to eating in a 10-hour window, and fasting for 14 hours overnight for maintenance. Not eating for a long stretch allows the gut lining time to heal and regenerate. It’s like keeping footfall off a lawn so it has a rest to grow back. Fasting also seems to calm down the immune system – a majority of which is located in the gut lining. I talk about what I have seen in clinical practice in more detail in my recent podcast with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee and have written a blog about it here. Re: content of diet, my general advice would be: avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and soapy stabilisers and gums which are in many so-called “health” foods these days. In my experience, lots of people’s guts don’t react well to these. Read labels and cook from scratch as much as you can.
No advice in this column is designed to override any by your medical doctor and should not be relied on as a substitute for specialist dietary advice. If you have any concerns about your health, visit your general practitioner, or medical consultant.
Do you want to ask a nutritionist a question about your gut issues? You can do that HERE!