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Dealing with ulcerative colitis? Doctor shares dietary tips to help manage symptoms.

Dietary tips to manage ulcerative colitis
What to eat and avoid when dealing with ulcerative colitis 03:39

A healthy, balanced diet is key to daily comfort and well-being, and it's especially important for people with inflammatory bowel disorders like ulcerative colitis.

For his own patients dealing with this condition, Dr. David Hudesman, a gastroenterologist and co-director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at NYU Langone, recommends a Mediterranean-based diet.

"So, high in lean proteins — chicken, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables — avoiding processed foods, artificial sweeteners, fatty foods," he said.

During a flare-up, meaning when symptoms are worsening, Hudesman suggests a slight shift.

"You want to keep up with that high protein as I mentioned, but we want to start minimizing highly fibrous foods, so less fruits and vegetables — not that that's worsening inflammation, but that could worsen how patients feel," he said.

Having multiple small meals a day rather than fewer, larger meals can also help, he added.

While diet can play an important role in an ulcerative colitis patient's quality of life by helping relieve symptoms or optimizing medical therapy, it shouldn't be viewed as a primary therapy, Hudesman said.

The same goes for supplements, he added.

"If you look at the data, there's really not great evidence showing that probiotics actually do anything to heal inflammation on the inside," he said. "However, if I have a patient on medical therapy — they're doing well, their intestines are healed, but they still have bloating, discomfort, other GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms — I think that's where probiotics play a role."

The Mediterranean diet, patterned on the traditional cuisines of the region, has even been shown to benefit people who don't have inflammatory bowel disorders.

A study earlier this year linked it to fewer Alzheimer's signs in the brain while another found it may lower women's risk for heart disease by 24%.

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