People with ulcerative colitis are at risk of malnutrition for a variety of reasons:

  • When symptoms are severe, people don't feel like eating.
  • Diarrhea makes food move faster out of the body, so there's less time for nutrients to be absorbed.
  • Ulcerative colitis can damage the intestinal walls, which reduces the body's ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Removing parts of the intestine to treat ulcerative colitis reduces the available areas for nutrients to be absorbed.
  • Medications for ulcerative colitis may prevent nutrients from being absorbed.
  • Nutrients may be lost through bleeding associated with ulcerative colitis.

Nutritional therapy helps ensure you get the nutrients you need while avoiding foods that make your ulcerative colitis worse. It includes:

  • taking nutritional supplements if needed. This may include vitamin or mineral tablets, liquid nutrition, or, in extreme cases, nutrition solutions that are injected into a vein (called total parenteral nutrition or TPN).
  • avoiding foods that may aggravate your symptoms, such as fatty foods for some people who can't absorb fat properly due to surgery to remove parts of the intestines.
  • using an elemental diet, a liquid nutrition product that is already pre-digested. It is usually given through a feeding tube.
  • eating a healthy, nutritious diet.

Consult your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting nutritional therapy.