Can a Vegan Diet Help Treat Ulcerative Colitis?

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Vegan diets are well known as an effective tool against autoimmune diseases because they lower inflammation.

Since ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it’s a reasonable thought that perhaps a vegan diet can help manage the symptoms of it as well.

While there’s not much published research on this specific topic, I did find some research that I’ll summarize for you here.

The Effect of a Plant-Based Diet on Ulcerative Colitis

As far as I’m aware, this is the only study published so far that looks at the effect of a plant-based (semi vegetarian diet, not vegan) on ulcerative colitis.

While that’s not exactly what we’re looking for, it still may provide some insights.

They provided patients with a mostly lacto-ovo vegetarian diet while in the hospital, and educated them on how to follow a similar diet outside the hospital.

There were a few big findings.

First, by the time most of the patients left the hospital, they had already seen significant improvements.

ulcerative colitis improvements

In total, 77% of patients had some sort of improvement, shown in the graph above.

On top of that, there were lasting effects that suggest treating ulcerative colitis patients with dietary education is more effective than just traditional medication (obviously this should be done with physician supervision):

Relapse rates after educational hospitalization providing a PBD were far lower than those reported with medication. Educational hospitalization is effective at inducing habitual dietary changes.

They followed up on a yearly basis and had relapse rates far better than expected, at just 2%, 4%, 7%, 19%, and 19%, respectively.

What can we take from this?

Well, there are some obvious limitations. It’s a single study with largely self-reported data, so you can’t make too many definitive conclusions.

However, it does appear that a plant-based diet is effective at managing ulcerative colitis for most chronic sufferers.

The plant-based diet in this study included fish and even meat occasionally.

We can guess that a vegan diet would be even more effective, but until that’s actually studied, we have no evidence behind it.

Unfortunately there’s not much more we can say. I’ll update this page if and when more research on vegan diets and ulcerative colitis come out.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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