Starting Paleo when you have Ulcerative Colitis

So you have Inflammatory Bowel Disease and you are thinking that eating clean may help symptoms. Welcome to the club! Here in the IBD club we poop a lot and we are very friendly. Come join! Drink the paleo kool-aid with us.

A little while ago I posted 8 Tips for Starting the Paleo Diet. Many people often ask me how they should start changing their diet. Or they ask what is the most important food to give up first. It’s tough to say because everyone is different. So my answer usually depends on the person asking.

Regardless, I usually get asked the same questions about eating certain types of food. Most questions are below. I answer why these non-paleo foods are detrimental to those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.


Why Paleo?

What does paleo have anything to do with Ulcerative Colitis, anyway? To start, most of the food in the Standard American Diet eat isn’t real food. It’s been processed and manufactured in a lab. The cheese you get on your fast food breakfast sandwich isn’t churned from cow’s milk.The same thing goes for boxed dinners and packages of cookies.

The longer the shelf life the shorter your life. If your food can go bad it’s good for you. If it can’t go bad it’s not good for you. Those are some rules I like to express to people new to clean eating.

Below are some of the basics of the paleo diet and why it is beneficial for people with ulcerative colitis


Why no beans?

Oh, hello bloated tummy. Nice to see you again. Please fart out all the beans I just ate today. Thanks. Sincerely, your un-paleo digestive tract. Need I say more?
Beans contain toxins that we cannot digest very well. When the beans hang out in our lower gut they eat bacteria and produces gas which causes bloating and well, lots of blaming the dog. “Shadow, did you fart again?!”.

Why no dairy?

Most dairy contains lactose and casein. Since we’ve only been eating dairy for less than 10,000 years our body hasn’t had time to evolve quickly enough to digest it properly. Did you know that people who are lactose intolerant are actually “normal” and those of us who aren’t immune to it are all broken inside. Yeah. You heard me. Broken. The real culprit here isn’t even lactose, though. It’s casein. Caesin is a protein found in dairy and grains that is similar to gluten in that it is a protein that damages your guts. MOOOve over dairy, I’ll stick with coconut milk.


Why no grains?

Lectins and gluten. Like beans, lectins in grains are a protein that the human body does not digest. We produce antibodies toward them which sometimes stimulate an immune system response. That’s exactly what we might not want as autoimmune disease sufferers. Additionally, gluten is made up of two proteins that about 30% of the population is actually allergic to.

I don’t know about you but I don’t like to eat anything that looks the same going out as it does going in. If you know what I mean, *cough* corn-in-your-poop *cough*. When you think about it, all the nutrients we can get from grains we can also get from other food. So why watch corn flush down the toilet when you can skip it all together?


Why no sugar?

To start, sugar causes an imbalance in gut flora. It feeds the yeast and bad bacteria in your gut throwing everything off-kilter. Long story short, the process of digesting sugar causes us to suck nutrients from other important parts of our body like our bones, muscles, and brain. Sugar has also been known to depress the immune system. So if you have an autoimmune disease the last thing you want to do is mess up the very system that’s already attacking you.

Sugar is in everything. This was the hardest thing for me to cut out because it’s hiding in almost every food in the store! Ketchup, salad dressing, juice…you name it.

Why all organic?

GMOs, hormones, and more – YUM! I think this photo speaks for itself.

pesticide-300_tcm18-60750This ain’t salad dressing, folks.

Beginning Paleo

Nice and easy does it. If jumping right into a paleo diet intimidates you then I have a suggestion. Try excluding non-paleo items each couple of weeks. For instance, for the first few weeks try cutting out grains and gluten. Next, remove dairy. Then be conscious of the amount of sugar you consume. Next, make it a point not to eat beans. Before you know it you’ll be 100% paleo!

Many people, myself included, begin the paleo diet and first try to make all the foods they used to eat. Paleo cake. Paleo pizza. Paleo ice cream. However, these are all treats that should be limited. In fact, starting out the paleo diet with these options might actually make you feel worse than you did before your healing adventure. Almonds and other nuts in large quantities make me feel very bloated. Additionally, most of those paleo treats are not nutrient dense. So, if you’re body is lacking nutrients from a flare then you’ll most definitely need proteins and vegetables, not paleo cookies.

My personal advice for beginning the paleo diet for healing is to stick with lean proteins, easily digestible vegetables, and lots of water!

A list of foods that are helpful to begin paleo with an IBD are:

Meats and Protein:

Fruit and Veggies:

Try to avoid raw veggies and salad when you’re in a flare. Keep fruits to a minimum as they contain a lot of sugar, although natural, that may impact the balance of your gut flora.


  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • lard/meat fat (try Fatworks for grass-fed healthy fat)
  • avocado oil

When in doubt, refer to the paleo pyramid.paleolithic-food-pyramid

Need more tips on starting a paleo diet? Read 8 more tips here.
Want to know what paleo food to AVOID if you have gut issues? Read Foods to avoid.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a doctor nor is this blog meant to replace professional medical advice. It is important to establish a relationship with your gastroenterologist and speak with them about any diet changes you may want to consider. 

4 thoughts on “Starting Paleo when you have Ulcerative Colitis

  1. Jmart

    I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when I was 21, I am now 28 and my colitis is worse than ever. My mom and my fiance both think I need to change my diet to more lean meats and fruits and veggies. However, for the last six months if I have any type of vegetable or fruit (unless it is blended into a smoothie) I am in so much pain and going to the bathroom non-stop. I am very afraid to start incorporating them back into my diet but I know I need the vitamins and nutrients it would give me. Do you have problems with veggies and fruits? It seems so many foods bother me, it is overwelming. Should I wait until this flare up goes away, (hopefully soon), and then start trying to eat them again? Are there any vegetables that you seem to not have any trouble with? It doesn’t seem to matter if they are cooked, they still bother me. Any suggestions? Sorry for the long post!

    1. mangiapaleo Post author

      Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing a flare. To answer your question, most fruits and veggies do not bother me. However, when I’m flaring EVERYTHING seems to bother me. Personally, I would focus on getting into remission before any reintroduction of food or experimenting. It may be a good idea to keep a journal of certain foods. I highly suggest trying bone broth as it contains many nutrients and is healing to the gut. Simple as this: if it causes you problems do not eat it. Everyone is different. You will find your own version of the paleo diet 🙂

      As I believe diet can help symptoms and also keep someone in remission, I do not think it is the only option. For some, like myself, a combination of medication is necessary to keep healthy and stable.

      Please note that I am unauthorized to give medical advice as I am not a medical professional. I HIGHLY suggest speaking with your gastroenterologist and fostering a strong relationship with them.

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