What foods help heal colitis?

Colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Making dietary changes is one of the most effective ways to manage symptoms and promote healing. While there is no definitive “colitis diet,” certain foods may help reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and ease discomfort. This article explores the top anti-inflammatory foods to incorporate into your diet to aid colitis recovery.

What is colitis?

Colitis refers to inflammation of the inner lining of the colon, also known as the large intestine. There are several types of colitis:

  • Ulcerative colitis – chronic inflammation and ulcers along the colon
  • Crohn’s colitis – inflammation that can affect any part of the digestive tract
  • Infectious colitis – inflammation caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites
  • Ischemic colitis – inflammation caused by reduced blood flow to the colon
  • Chemical colitis – inflammation triggered by harsh chemicals within the colon

Symptoms of colitis often include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Rectal pain and bleeding
  • Urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss

While there is no known cure for most forms of colitis, the goals of treatment are to reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms, and induce long periods of remission. Diet and nutrition play key roles in managing colitis flares.

How does diet impact colitis?

Research shows strong links between diet and inflammation in people with colitis. Certain foods may either worsen or reduce inflammation.

Foods linked to increased intestinal inflammation include:

  • Refined grains
  • Food additives like carrageenan
  • High-fat foods
  • Certain meats like processed deli meats
  • Excess alcohol
  • Spicy foods

Meanwhile, foods shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the gut include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Oily fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and legumes
  • Spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic

Additionally, some people with colitis have trouble digesting foods high in fiber. Raw vegetables and fruits with the skin on may worsen symptoms like diarrhea and gas. Removing high-fiber foods during active flares and slowly reintroducing them during remission may help reduce discomfort.

Top 10 anti-inflammatory foods for colitis

Focusing on anti-inflammatory foods is key for colitis healing. Here are 10 of the best foods to incorporate into a gut-friendly diet:

1. Fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Multiple studies reveal that omega-3s can help maintain remission and reduce relapses in people with colitis.

Aim for 2-3 servings per week. Grill, bake, or poach the fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats.

2. Olive oil

Olive oil contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Using olive oil for cooking, dressings, and marinades may benefit colitis.

Opt for extra virgin olive oil, which retains more antioxidants from the olive fruit.

3. Green leafy vegetables

Greens like kale, spinach, chard, arugula, lettuce, and other leafy vegetables are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that fight inflammation. During remission periods, aim for 1-2 cups daily.

For active flares, steam or cook greens to make them easier to tolerate. Adding lemon juice can help break down fiber.

4. Cruciferous vegetables

This vegetable group includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and bok choy. They contain a compound called sulforaphane shown to have protective effects on the gut lining and reduce inflammation.

Try roasting or steaming cruciferous veggies to boost absorption of anti-inflammatory compounds.

5. Berries

Berries like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are packed with antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds have strong anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.

Enjoy fresh or frozen berries in smoothies, oatmeal, salads, or as a snack.

6. Avocados

Avocados are a creamy fruit full of healthy fats and fiber that may protect the intestines. Studies show avocados may reduce inflammation markers in people with colitis.

Add avocado slices to sandwiches and salads or mash it up for a spread.

7. Nuts and seeds

Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds are nutritional powerhouses. They provide plant-based protein, fiber, and anti-inflammatory fats like omega-3s. These foods may help shorten flare-ups.

Look for raw, unsalted nuts and seeds without added oils or sweeteners.

8. Turmeric

Curcumin, the main active compound in turmeric, has immense anti-inflammatory properties. Studies demonstrate turmeric’s ability to reduce inflammation markers and improve symptoms in colitis.

Add turmeric to soups, smoothies, stir fries, rice dishes, etc. Pair with black pepper to boost absorption.

9. Ginger

Ginger contains compounds called gingerols that decrease inflammation. Research shows promising benefits of ginger supplements for reducing ulcerative colitis symptoms.

Use fresh or ground ginger to make tea, add to soups and curries, or blend into smoothies.

10. Garlic

Garlic has antimicrobial and immune-stimulating effects that may suppress inflammation. Studies confirm garlic extracts improve outcomes for colitis patients by enhancing antioxidant activity.

Enjoy raw garlic in dressings, dips and sauces. Crush or slice it to activate beneficial compounds.

Foods to avoid with colitis

While anti-inflammatory foods should be emphasized, certain ingredients may trigger or worsen colitis flares. Foods to limit or avoid entirely include:

Processed and fried foods

Foods high in trans fats, refined carbs, and chemical additives like chips, fast food, and baked goods can promote inflammation. Frying also creates harmful compounds like AGEs.

Red and processed meats

Red meats like beef and pork are high in saturated fat and iron, both of which may exacerbate colitis. Processed deli meats contain preservatives like nitrites that can damage the gut.

Dairy products

Around 50% of people with IBD are lactose intolerant. For others, dairy proteins may trigger inflammation. Limit milk, cheese, cream, butter, and ice cream.


Alcohol, especially in excess, generates oxidative stress and intestinal permeability. Red wine and beer also contain histamines that can worsen symptoms.

Refined grains

Refined grains like white bread, pasta, crackers and cereals lack fiber and nutrients. They can promote inflammation and disrupt gut bacteria balance.

Sugar and sweeteners

Table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave, etc. feed harmful gut bacteria, leading to inflammation. Artificial sweeteners like sucralose also damage intestinal bacteria.

Popcorn, seeds, nuts

While healthy in moderation, foods high in insoluble fiber like corn, seeds, and nuts may irritate the gut during flares. Try smooth nut butters or oil-based dressings instead.

A gut-friendly meal plan for colitis

When designing a meal plan for colitis, focus on incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods while limiting triggers. This gut-friendly sample meal plan provides a balanced mix of proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and spices:


  • Breakfast: Avocado toast – mashed avocado with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper on whole grain toast. Berries.
  • Lunch: Salmon salad with olive oil based dressing, spinach, and boiled carrots. Piece of fruit.
  • Dinner: Turkey meatballs with zucchini noodles and marinara sauce. Steamed broccoli.


  • Breakfast: Veggie scramble with olive oil instead of butter, sautéed kale and tomatoes. Side of melon.
  • Lunch: Tuna salad stuffed in a baked sweet potato. Salad with vinaigrette dressing.
  • Dinner: Chicken stir fry with broccoli, carrots, spinach and garlic over brown rice.


  • Breakfast: Oatmeal made with almond milk, berries, flax seeds, walnuts, and cinnamon.
  • Lunch: Salad with chickpeas, avocado, beets, and homemade oil-based dressing. Apple slices.
  • Dinner: Sheet pan salmon with roast vegetables – zucchini, red onion, grape tomatoes. Quinoa pilaf.


  • Breakfast: Banana almond butter smoothie with spinach, almond milk, and nutmeg.
  • Lunch: Leftover salmon and vegetables from last night’s dinner.
  • Dinner: Veggie and tofu coconut curry with cauliflower, green beans and spinach over basmati rice.


  • Breakfast: Poached egg with wilted spinach and sliced avocado. Blueberries.
  • Lunch: Chopped Greek salad – romaine, cucumbers, bell peppers, chickpeas and feta. Balsamic dressing.
  • Dinner: Turkey and vegetable chili with white beans. Brown rice. Steamed carrots.


  • Green tea, herbal tea
  • Vegetable juice
  • Coconut water
  • Bone broth


  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Vegetables with hummus or guacamole
  • Trail mix with nuts and seeds
  • Apple sauce
  • Rice cakes
  • Smoothies

Nutritional supplements for colitis

Specific vitamins, minerals, herbs and other compounds may further help reduce intestinal inflammation and promote healing:

Vitamin D

Many people with colitis are deficient in vitamin D, an important anti-inflammatory nutrient. Taking a supplement with at least 2000 IU daily may be beneficial.

Vitamin B Complex

B vitamins like B12, B6 and folate aid gut health but may be depleted in active colitis. A high potency B complex can help replenish levels.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish oil, flax oil, and algal oil supplements provide concentrated doses of inflammation-lowering omega-3 fats EPA and DHA.


Probiotic supplements contain beneficial bacteria strains that support intestinal and immune function. Look for multi-strain formulas with at least 10 billion CFU.


Derived from turmeric root, curcumin supplements provide very high concentrations of this powerful anti-inflammatory compound.

Aloe Vera

Some studies indicate aloe vera juice may aid colitis through antibacterial, immune-stimulating, and gut-protective mechanisms.


This Ayurvedic herb contains anti-inflammatory triterpenes shown to significantly improve ulcerative colitis symptoms and remission time.

Lifestyle changes to support colitis healing

Aside from dietary measures, several lifestyle factors affect colitis outcomes. Work on incorporating these gut-friendly habits:

  • Manage stress – Chronic stress exacerbates inflammation and gut dysfunction. Try meditation, yoga, journaling, etc.
  • Exercise regularly – Physical activity reduces inflammation markers and risk of colitis flares.
  • Improve sleep – Aim for 7-8 hours nightly. Poor sleep increases intestinal permeability.
  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids like water and herbal tea to maintain bowel regularity.
  • Take probiotics – Restore good gut bacteria with fermented foods and probiotic supplements.
  • Quit smoking – Smoking damages the intestines and boosts inflammation. Seek support to quit.

The bottom line

Nutrition and lifestyle interventions are critical for managing colitis and easing symptoms of intestinal inflammation. Emphasizing anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish, olive oil, leafy greens, berries, avocados, nuts, turmeric, ginger, and garlic can aid the gut healing process.

Avoiding common triggers like processed foods, dairy, alcohol, and red meat may also provide relief during active flares. Supplements like vitamin D, omega-3s, probiotics, and herbs can provide added anti-inflammatory benefits. Along with dietary changes, stress management, exercise, sleep, hydration and smoking cessation help support overall colitis remission.

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