For many, the thought of an elimination diet conjures up an image of a lifetime of depravation. Truth is, an elimination diet can provide you with permission to eat at least some of the foods that you suspect may be giving you problems with ulcerative colitis (UC) without the guilt and suspicion you may now be feeling.
What is an elimination diet?
In elimination dieting, you remove certain foods from your diet for a period of time, usually 2 or 3 weeks. There is no single elimination diet. The foods that you eliminate are foods that you either suspect may be causing you issues, or foods that most commonly cause digestive issues. After completely ridding your system of the eliminated foods, you then slowly reintroduce the specific foods and monitor your body for possible reactions to the food.
Which foods should you eliminate?
We are all unique and have unique dietary tolerances. However, many agree that the most helpful elimination diet starts out by removing the foods that you believe to be the source of your symptoms. You are the scientist designing your own experiment based on your suspicions. If acid reflux is your main issue, then you may begin by eliminating all highly acidic foods such as coffee, citrus, and tomato sauce. If your issues go beyond acid reflux, then you may need to avoid some of the common foods that can cause other digestive disorders such as cereals, milk, eggs, fish/seafood, legumes/peanuts, and soy. If your issues seem to worsen after eating bread, then you may need to avoid all foods with gluten for at least 3 or 4 weeks. If you experience chronic UC symptoms, a low FODMAP diet may be a good elimination diet to try.
Why try it?
Temporarily eliminating something from your diet does not mean you will never be able to eat that food again. The point of an elimination diet is to understand how your body reacts to different foods. For example, you may find that you are able to drink one cup of coffee a day but three is just too much. This discovery will not only let you really enjoy the one cup, but it has the potential to help you feel better overall and possibly reduce the amount of medication you are taking.
The bottom line
Before beginning any elimination diet, consult with your physician or registered dietitian. Elimination diets can be very restrictive and lacking in many essential vitamins and minerals, and should therefore only be considered for short-term use to evaluate symptom improvement.