Me, Myself, and Ulcerative Colitis


As a child, I ate everything and anything. I remember trying my first jalapeño at age 4. I remember eating cow tongue, baked potato drenched in mayonnaise, raw vegetables in the garden, mustard on everything….. eating everything kind of became a source of pride for me.  I loved trying new things, eating new creations my dad made – banana curry is what stands out the most in my mind – and even somehow managed to drink spoiled lemon juice. That was gross.

However, during my last semester at Master’s, all that changed.  I was running on 3-4 hours sleep at night, working 2 jobs, acting as assistant resident advisor on my dorm wing, leading a small group, heading up a student fan club for our baseball team, working in the nursery at church, and trying with all my might to get good grades.  Unfortunately, although I managed to do “ok” in all those areas, I ended up destroying my health.

After months of doing my own research and knowing I was in for a treat with this long-term immune disorder, I went to the doctors and confirmed my diagnosis. I have ulcerative colitis.

If you don’t know what this is, I can sum it up as a title doctors give you when they’re not 100% sure what you have, but your intestines are attacking themselves and all the food you put in them as if they were some sort of invading poison that needed to be destroyed. As a result, your intestines are constantly inflamed from digesting these “irritating poisons” and attacking its own immune system.

Amazingly, I’m not one in a million with this diagnosis.

So, why tell you all this?  Well, it’s taken over 2 years now to get it under control (somewhat). I still have bad days and good days. I have food that bothers me 100% of the time, some food that bothers me 50% of the time, some food too good for me to give up, and some food that doesn’t bother me at all.

Of course, for every person, the tolerance for food differs but here’s an overall, condensed version of what to eat, what to avoid, and what to be cautious of:

Fruits:

Apples (with no peel)
Grapes
Grapefruit (peeled out of the membrane)
Bananas

Avoid fruits with seeds like

Strawberries
Blackberries
Raspberries
and even blueberries

Starches:

Starches seem to be the one thing that doesn’t bother me. I can eat as much potato, rice, and bread as I want.

Vegetables:

Avoid raw vegetables. Almost all fiberous vegetables increase digestion but all add to the clearing out of the intestines. If your body is already irritated with anything entering the intestines, this only makes it worse.

Therefore, avoid:

lettuce
cucumbers (because of the seeds)
carrots
olives

Some veggies don’t seem to bother me.  They are onions and celery (ironic). I still eat those as well as peppers of all kinds.  Lemon aids in digestion, so try adding lemon juice to your water.

Meat

I would say I eat all meats for sure. Anything fried is more irritating to the bowels, so be careful how much fried foods (of any kind) you intake.

Dairy

Thankfully, dairy doesn’t bother me, but that can’t be said for all people with ulcerative colitis.

Snacky Foods

Some people really bothered by nuts and dried fruits. I can’t say I’ve

picture courtesy of thenutfactory.com

been terribly bothered by dried fruits, but if I eat alot of peanuts, that seems to throw my system a little.  Small quantities are key for those things that bother you inconsistently.

Beverages

Carbonation, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners are very irritating for people with ulcerative colitis. I find that I can have some carbonation and some artificial sweeteners in small quantities, but caffeine is a definite no-no.

Any ulcerative colitis questions? Feel free to ask.
The not-so-doctor Ashley is in. 🙂

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4 Responses to Me, Myself, and Ulcerative Colitis

  1. Cadie says:

    The things to avoid/things that are ok for ulercitive colitis sounds similar for the things to avoid/things that are ok for IBS. I think I may have IBS and there are a lot of foods that bother me, usually mildly (mainly just anything really fatty or greasy), but it varies from day to day . . . it’s definitely not anything as severe as you have.

    I’m glad your ailment has been able to get under control at least somewhat.

  2. Grace says:

    I have a question for you Dr. Ashley. So this is not something you’re born with? You develop it with bad eating habits?

    • Ashley says:

      Yeah, ulcerative colitis is genetic; so I’ve had it as an issue in my system all my life. However, stress can bring out the issues, so that they’re evident (or out of dormancy). Eventually, I can get it to be dormant again. 🙂

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