Ulcerative colitis is a chronic and often painful inflammation of the colon. The cause of this disease is unknown, but dietary factors have long been suspected as playing some role in the disease because it appears to be more common in modern societies, which consume a lot of animal products and less fruits and vegetables.
A study followed 183 people with colitis that was in remission for one year.1 During that year, a little more than half the people suffered a relapse that was validated using a standard disease index activity index. The researchers looked at the relationship between dietary factors and whose ulcerative colitis relapsed during the year. The 25% of patients who consumed the most protein from poultry, fish, eggs and meat were about three times more likely to suffer a relapse of the disease than the 25% who consumed a diet lowest in these foods. However, proteins from milk products were not associated with a greater risk of relapse. By contrast, the 25% who consumed the most red meat and processed meats such as sausages, bologna and hot dogs were more than 5 times as likely to suffer a relapse of colitis during the year than the 25% who consumed the least red and processed meats. Those who ate more fresh fruits and vegetables had a reduced risk of relapse.
The authors of this study suspected the high sulfur content of foods could be to blame. Animal proteins are high in sulfur. Sulfites are used to preserve beer and wine. The researchers noted men who consumed more than 2 drinks a day were about 3 times more likely to suffer a relapse of colitis than those who did not drink. Sulfur in foods can be used by gut bacteria to generate hydrogen sulfide, a noxious and toxic gas that may very well damage the lining of the large bowel and lead to inflammation. In some people the inflammation becomes so severe they end with pain, diarrhea and blood in their stools or ulcerative colitis.
Bottom Line: Patients with a history of ulcerative colitis should be discouraged from eating a diet high in meat, eggs, and sulfite-preserved foods.
By J. Kenney, PhD, RD.
1 Gut 2004;53:1479-84
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.