10 Foods That Heal
And 10 That Hurt
Over the years, my relationship with food has ebbed and flowed into all types of places. Growing up, I couldn’t get enough of sugary & salty treats, in my teens it was grease topped with microwavable deliciousness, throughout college it was massive portions of healthy-ish cafeteria foods, and now it is a strict, plant-based diet. Until I was diagnosed, I had no regard for the food I was putting into my body and, frankly, I didn’t care. If it tasted good, I ate it.
With an extremely active metabolism, I was always trying to find food and satisfy my endless cravings. Wake up, eat. Go to school, eat. Come home, eat. Get ready for bed, eat. Sleep, get some of that shredded cheese and peanut butter from the fridge quick then go back to bed. Repeat. It was not until I learned more about the real impact food has on our bodies that I decided to implement some changes.
Once I diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, everything changed. I began a series of trial and error that led me to figure out certain dietary needs and trigger foods to allow me to deal with my symptoms. At the time, It was hard to turn away a fresh, meat-lovers, double stuffed pizza but, man, does it feel good to not have your insides be on fire as a result of it. Instead, I learned how to cook meals that were made with fresh, sustainable ingredients that would nourish and heal my body in all of the ways a pizza ever could. I now have a better idea of the foods that work and don’t work well with my system which is a HUGE win in my book!
During my healing process, I found out what foods triggered my symptoms and which tended to soothe them. It’s no secret now, the Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet can work magic in your body:
Foods That Hurt Me
Dairy can be a huge symptom trigger for some and usually leads to some nasty inflammation for sensitive UC guts. If you are lactose intolerant, definitely don’t consume dairy or you will be farting all the time haha. Also, you’re not a baby cow.
Especially fatty, red meats, animal meat products often make symptoms worse by triggering gas, cramping, and potentially contributing to a flare. Farewell, Bacon, I knew you well…but we’re over. I don’t need your drama anymore.
Added sugar often leads to inflammation and can be destructive during a flare. In most IBD colons, it can cause diarrhea, bloating, and gas which just makes the whole experience of eating a cupcake way less fun. Best to avoid whenever possible.
Gluten (Wheat products)
Gluten can be a trigger for certain people with a gluten sensitivity. Mainly found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats, gluten is a sticky protein that is difficult to digest if your body is not genetically equipped to break it down. This often irritates the whole digestive operation and contributes to inflammation. While healing, try being temporarily gluten-free.
Most coffee drinkers can relate to what happens to their bowel movements after drinking their morning cup. Coffee can speed up the transit time in the colon, leading to more frequent trips to the bathroom. Also, caffeine can contribute to further inflammation if not consumed in moderation. Mainly I avoid coffee, soda/pop, and energy drinks but tolerate homemade ginger tea quite well 🙂
[sigh] Chocolate contains both caffeine AND sugar which both can cause some irritating cramping, more frequent bowel movements, and induce more sadness when you actually eat it than when you crave it. An argument can be made for dark chocolate but it’s best to avoid it all while healing.
These beverages can irritate the digestive tract and cause gas (who would’ve guessed?). Like sodas and beers, many of them contain sugar, caffeine, or artificial sweeteners, which can also be IBD triggers for some people. Just sugar in general is a bit rough on everything.
The ultimate go-to movie snack is not completely digested by the small intestine and can trigger diarrhea when it is improperly digested. Also, the rough textures may irritate the lining of the colon and potentially cause pain. This often leads to a quick trip to the porcelain throne! As a frequent movie-goer, this one is especially tough to resist.
Spicy Foods, hot peppers & sauces
Spicy foods have a reputation for causing diarrhea in many people, and definitely worsen symptoms of IBD champs. I have never really been much of a “spicy foods” enthusiast anyways but it is still something I try to keep in mind when dining out and cooking. It will burn on the way in….and definitely on the way out.
Booze can sometimes trigger diarrhea and exacerbate symptoms in those with chronic inflammation. Besides affecting your digestive tract, it can set off a chain reaction of negative side effects on your other organs as well. I just avoid it all entirely and have never craved or felt the need to include it in my life.
Foods that heal me
juice and smoothies
Blending fruits & vegetables is a great way to drink your calories and help you maintain good nutrition because they are generally well-tolerated in digestion. Many different types of fruit have wonderful healing properties and are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals. Cram your favorites in a blender and get yourself feeling great!
Veggies are important in general healthy eating and are a great source of many nutrients like potassium, fiber, folic acid, and vitamins A, E, and C. Fully cooked, seedless, skinless vegetables are easily digested but, if you can tolerate it, my favorites are potatoes, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, as well as just about anything that goes in a hearty minestrone soup!
High Quality h20
Water not only composes 70% of your body but also is the world’s universal solvent. This means that it dissolves more substances than any other liquid. It lubricates joints, soothes inflammation, hydrates your cells, moves blood around your body, removes free radicals, and expels toxins. Honestly, I don’t really drink anything other than water now and I’ve never felt better!
Tubers (root vegetables)
These nutrient-dense, starchy vegetables are an absolute lifesaver in many countries and include potatoes, yams, rutabaga, fennel, parsnips, carrots, and beets. Their vitamins & minerals are easily digested when cooked and provide a wealth of fiber with enough calories to keep you healthy. Sweet potatoes are my favorite!
In my opinion, leafy greens are the most underrated nutrient powerhouse of them all. The large Green Family includes members like spinach, arugula, kale, bok choy, collard greens, cabbage, lettuce, and watercress. Packed with vitamins, low in calories, and high in fiber, greens are also anti-inflammatory and can be added to almost any meal!
Whether it was broccoli & potato, a homemade tomato bisque, or roasted butternut squash, these soups always made me feel happy, warm, & safe inside. When making soup, a lot of the nutrients flow from the food into the cooking liquid so when you ingest healthy foods AND the liquid, your whole body thanks you.
These critters are not technically ‘food’ but they are absolutely essential “good” bacteria that live in your digestive tract to help you metabolize and absorb nutrients. Usually advertised in yogurts, kefir, sauerkraut, and miso, probiotics are alive and well in all unprocessed fruits & vegetables and aid in digestion, and can even help you maintain balance or achieve remission.
Avos are my go-to source of healthy fats and extra protein. Because they are nearly 70% water, they are easily digested, delicious, and usually go with just about anything! Try to keep your portions to no more than 1/4 of an avocado per day.
Legumes include lentils, peas, chickpea, all beans, and nuts. They are a great source of protein and a fantastic addition to almost any meal. When healing, it’s best to start slow with some green beans and peas before reintroducing the rest. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the whole spectrum of legumes and feeling better because of them.
omega-3 fatty acids
These are vital in helping reduce inflammation during a flare and may even help you to stay in remission. I love to consume them through flax seeds and walnuts on occasion. During a flare, it may be wise to not consume whole nuts and ground or blend them to reduce irritation.
why it matters
You are what you eat. Your body quite literally metabolizes the molecules that make up your food and uses them in your body. Why not put some healthy stuff in the tank? It is a lot easier said than done, believe me, but it is all the more worth it when you feel the results. Everything you eat is either broken down and consumed by your body or eliminated as waste.
If you think about it, the food you eat is either going to heal or hurt your body in the long run. With a few thousand years of evolution to back it up, your body is pretty amazing at making it work with whatever you throw down the hatch. However, it is important to remember that every bite is a choice and there is power in that choice. You will reap the consequences and the rewards of what you choose to eat.
Stay Hungry, My Friends,