Lifestyle Management of Ulcerative Colitis

You can lead a full life even if you have ulcerative colitis. Focus on keeping your symptoms under control. Don’t let this disease isolate you. By planning ahead and working with support groups, you can find ways to cope. And you may even help others who have ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

Have a plan

Make this your goal—“Ulcerative colitis won’t keep me from the activities I enjoy.” You may need to do some planning to reach that goal. By staying positive, you can help make sure you’re in control—not ulcerative colitis. Here are some other tips:

  • Know where to find clean bathrooms.

  • Eat more frequent small meals instead of 3 big meals daily, especially when on the road or when you don’t have easy access to bathrooms.

  • If you’ve had a recent flare-up, eat foods that you know will limit your symptoms. Keep those foods on hand, both at home and at work.

  • Get some exercise every day.

  • Take a stress reduction class.

  • If going on a long trip, discuss your plans with your healthcare provider. They can teach you what to do if you have a flare-up while on the road.

Find a support group

Ulcerative colitis support groups can help you with many concerns you may have. Other people have felt much of what you may be feeling. Just knowing that you’re not alone can be a great comfort. Someone in a support group may offer a travel tip or a coping skill that’s perfect for you. And you may be able to help others along the way too. Contact the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation at or call toll-free at 800-932-2423.

Woman in support group.

Managing nutrition

You may be able to eat most foods until you have a flare-up. But like anyone else, you need to make healthy eating choices. Some of the healthiest foods can make symptoms worse, though. Keeping track of your “problem foods” may be helpful. Ask your healthcare provider any questions you have about healthy eating.

Stay away from your problem foods

There’s no rule for which foods can be a problem. How you feel after eating them is the best guide. You may need to stay away from high-fiber foods and foods that are hard to digest. These can include fresh fruits and vegetables. High-fat foods, such as whole-milk dairy products and red meat, can also make your symptoms worse in a flare-up. Write down what you eat and how it affects you. If a certain kind of food often gives you trouble, stay away from it. Also note the foods that work well for you. Your healthcare provider may have you see a dietitian or nutritionist to come up with the best food choices for you. They can help choose foods that are safe while getting correct nourishment.

Foods that are often safe

People will have different reactions to foods. But these food choices are often safe to eat during a flare-up:

  • Applesauce

  • Melba toast

  • Flavored gelatin

  • Vanilla pudding

  • Custard

  • White rice

  • Plain pasta

  • Canned peaches or pears

  • Baked potatoes 

  • Tuna packed in water

  • Mashed potatoes

  • Skinless chicken

  • Instant oatmeal

Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Robyn Zercher FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2024
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