If you have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you have probably noticed the effect of some foods and beverages on your digestive symptoms. However, if during flare-ups bowel movements are, shall we say, a bit more frequent, it can be hard to tell what might be helping or making things worse. Dehydration from frequent trips to the bathroom can also be much more common in ulcerative colitis (UC). In this article, we’ll look at the liquids that heal and those that might hurt the sensitive balance of your gut. These recipes and additional tips on managing inflammatory bowel disease symptoms can help you get back on track.
What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a type of IBD that is characterized by signs and symptoms of inflammation, including the loss of protective mucus barriers and the development of open sores, or ulcers, in the intestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis also causes changes in the gut microbiome function, with overpopulation of harmful gut bacteria and intestinal permeability (also known as “leaky gut”). Although it has many of the same symptoms and characteristics of Crohn’s disease, the other main inflammatory bowel disease, UC is set apart by its primary location of imbalance: the colon.
Diarrhea and Dehydration in Ulcerative Colitis
Electrolytes are substances in body fluids that carry a chemical charge (for example, minerals such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride, and calcium). They facilitate critical functions such as muscle contraction, acid-base balance, and maintaining fluid balance inside and outside of cells. Essential electrolytes not filtered and reabsorbed by the kidneys are usually reabsorbed by the colon, or large intestine, as food waste is solidified and turned into stool.
When a UC flare causes diarrhea, waste moves through the colon too quickly for water and electrolytes to be reabsorbed. The resulting dehydration and loss of electrolytes can worsen inflammation and overall stress in the body. While drinks like soda and other carbonated beverages (even bubbly water) may seem soothing, they can end up adding to uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, bloating, and pain. (Source, Source, Source)
Healing Liquids to Drink With Ulcerative Colitis
Because dehydration is not uncommon in inflammatory bowel diseases, it is especially beneficial to double down on fluids. However, restoring hydration, especially in UC, requires a little more than plain water. This collection of elixirs offers powerful rebalancing support, with some beverages containing nutrients for intestinal permeability healing and others providing boosts for beneficial bacteria. Some recipes are best as soothing sippers, while others are electrolyte-enhanced water replacements for rehydration needs. No matter the type of beverage or occasion, we have cross-checked and verified the benefits and tastiness, so you can’t go wrong.
Resolving acute or chronic dehydration from symptoms of UC can help manage a flare and bring you back to baseline. These 6 rehydration recipes match the ratio of sodium (i.e., salt) and glucose (i.e., sugar) that maintains your body’s fluid balance. They are intended to help you rehydrate after excessive fluid loss as you might have with diarrhea, but because of their higher salt and sugar content they are not intended as regular drinks during remission. These recipes can easily be made at home using pantry items you likely already have on hand.
Ingredients for all recipes: water, salt, sugar, Gatorade, chicken broth bouillon cube, fruit juice.
Source: The Minimalist Baker
Bone broth is essentially a soup stock that is made from simmering chicken bones for an extended time. As a result, cartilage and joints get broken down into their essential nutrients, which happen to be very nourishing for the intestinal lining that is often damaged in UC. So instead of tossing (or composting) the bones after your next poultry meal, consider simmering them with vegetable scraps and herbs first, and then adding this bone broth to your regenerative routine as a sippable libation. (Source)
Ingredients: bones from whole roasted chicken, water, lemon, apple cider vinegar, herbs, salt, pepper.
Source: Mountain Rose Herbs
Although there are limited studies on the therapeutic benefits of herbs (and they are generally not recommended as stand-alone medical treatments), many botanicals have been used traditionally for thousands of years and some may offer benefits for UC. Herbs such as ginger and turmeric have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, and mucilaginous herbs such as slippery elm and licorice are suggested to provide a protective coating for an inflamed gastrointestinal tract. This may be especially beneficial in IBD when there is damage to the intestinal mucus barrier, which has an important antimicrobial role. (Source, Source, Source, Source)
The benefits of green tea have been the subject of animal and human studies showing that its polyphenols can have anti-inflammatory effects and restore antioxidant status in the body in cases of IBD. Although more research is needed, there is more benefit than risk in starting up a regular tea time. (Source, Source)
Ingredients: ginger, slippery elm, turmeric, licorice, green tea, hot water.
Source: Yummy Mummy Kitchen
An aloe plant is helpful to have on hand in the case of a sunburn, but it's less known that the inner pulp can also be consumed. Aloe vera juice is easy to prepare. Dilute it with water and blend with a dash of pineapple or lime juice for extra flavor. Aside from its high nutrient content, compounds in aloe are antioxidant and immune supportive. In fact, in a small study aloe was shown to increase reaching clinical remission of UC. (Source)
While a potentially therapeutic beverage, it is important to consume aloe vera in moderation and consult your health care provider if you are considering aloe or any herbal supplements, as even natural compounds can sometimes have medication interactions and contraindications.