Each time I visited with my doctor during my flare-ups, he would drill into my head “You need to eat more fruits and vegetables!” My response was always “I do!” I thought I was doing the best I could in terms of nutrition and what I was consuming each day. I never ate fast food, so I just assumed that was enough. Turns out my doctor was right (he always is), and I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to make a drastic change in my diet.
After being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I was given a list of foods that I had to avoid as they cause inflammation in the gut and are not easily digestible. The list included nuts and seeds, dried fruit, raw fruits and vegetables, spicy foods, candy, caffeine, and alcohol. Two months after turning twenty-one I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment at the time. The only item on the list that I had a hard time adjusting to was cooking all of my fruits and veggies which is time-consuming and not always preferable.
So, I made all of these changes. I cut everything from the list completely out, except sweets because it was too difficult to say no sometimes. After a few months, I did not notice any change in my IBD symptoms, even in conjunction with the medication I was taking. I became convinced that diet did not matter in IBD since research does not completely prove it, and I began experimenting with other foods.
It was not until January of 2020 that I made the decision to hone in on my diet and cut out all refined sugar. I was still avoiding everything on the list, but I began to notice that my symptoms would exacerbate when I consumed sugar. After a week of cutting it out, I instantly felt a difference. I knew this was going to work for me, so I pressed on. With the help of IBD specific cookbooks, I found recipes that I could cook at home during the pandemic that were safe and healthy. If you have IBD, I suggest trying out the My Simple Changes Cookbook by Brandon Godsey and the Ulcerative Colitis Cookbook by Sally Lloyd. Both of these cookbooks led me on the path to where I am today. Or you can opt to see a nutritionist that specializes in IBD. I’ve shared some photos of my favorite creations below.
Today, I reserve sweets for special occasions only. I have resorted to sugar-free banana bread to get my sweets fix now and then. The funny thing about having IBD is that your diet is different when you are in a flare. For example, in a flare I would eat very small, light meals like soup, rice, plain chicken with no seasonings, pasta with butter, etc. Now that I am in remission, I am able to experiment with different foods and see how they work. In a flare I could never eat oatmeal, but now I love it and don’t experience any trouble! Once again, a trial and error process is necessary in this situation and you have to be patient. Everyone tolerates certain foods differently and you just have to be willing to put in the effort to see what works for you.
If anyone has some fun recipes in their back pocket, I would love to hear them! Feel free to share in the comments below.