Ulcerative colitis can be a devastating disease. Symptoms can include pain and cramping in the abdomen, a sudden urge to rush to the bathroom, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, fever, sores in the mouth, arthritis and nutrient deficiencies. The exact cause remains mysterious, but some experts attribute the condition to an overactive immune system. What triggers diarrhea from colitis, however, is not obvious. This reader discovered by accident that milk sugar might have been contributing to her symptoms:
Did Lactose Cause Diarrhea from Colitis?
Q. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 70. Mesalamine controls most of the symptoms except gassiness and bloat. Simethicone doesn’t help.
I tried Lactaid, and the impact was immediate and amazing. I have never had a sensitivity to dairy, so this puzzles me. I don’t know why it works, but I’m glad it does!
A. The sugar in dairy products (lactose) can cause symptoms such as gassiness, bloating, cramps and diarrhea for people who lack the enzyme lactase. Lactaid supplies that enzyme if taken at the same time as the lactose-containing food.
Many people may not realize that they are lactose intolerant. According to the National Library of Medicine, about 30 million Americans develop this condition. You may not have realized you were susceptible until you started adding lactase to your regimen.
What About Coconut to Control Diarrhea from Colitis?
Q. A couple years ago you offered a recipe for coconut macaroons that helped a young person with colitis or Crohn’s disease. I have misplaced the recipe, but my son was just diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and I want to make them for him. Where can I find it?
A. Many readers have offered testimonials about the value of coconut in easing chronic diarrhea. This is one of the troublesome symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.
We first learned about coconut macaroon cookies from Donald Agar, who discovered that eating two a day was a better treatment for his chronic diarrhea from Crohn’s than the medication Imodium. Animal research suggests that coconut oil may indeed have anti-inflammatory activity in the large intestines (Journal of Nutrition, March, 2009).
Coconut macaroon cookies contain shredded coconut, egg whites, almond extract, salt and sugar. The recipe is in the book we are sending you, Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy. This book has lots of food recipes for digestive tract woes including Digestive Tea, Kitchari, Persimmon Punch for heartburn and Anti-Inflammatory Curcumin Scramble. The book can be found in our bookstore at this link.
Here are a few testimonials. From RES:
“I have been using a tablespoon of coconut flakes plus 1/2 banana on my cereal every morning and my diarrhea has been under control completely. The coconut really works & one tablespoon a day doesn’t cause any great problem.”
This comes from CPMT:
“I ALSO HAVE IBS and drink coconut water or consume dry coconut with no sugar added. They work for me.”
NH Offers this advice for overcoming diarrhea:
“I keep dried, unsweetened coconut on hand and eat some if and when I feel there is a need. It not only stops the diarrhea but growling and other complaints my intestines make. I like it better because I try to stay away from sugar. I have had trouble with nausea for about 4 months now and had forgotten about the coconut so I am going to try using it to see if I can get rid of this nausea. Thanks for the reminder. Try the coconut, even if you are skeptical. It can’t hurt you. I do not mix it with anything and it is kinda dry so be careful and chew it well.”
Here is an overview from CAS:
“I’m a health information professional and the mother of a previously healthy nonsmoking, non-substance-abusing, non-soda-pop drinking, non-red meat-eating, and primarily lacto-ovo vegetarian teenager. Despite all these good habits my son was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 13. 15-20% of the 1 million Americans living with inflammatory bowel disease are under 18 and some of them are infants and toddlers. Our family has learned to take statements about dietary prevention or “cures” for digestive diseases with a considerable amount of salt.
“Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis are thought to be autoimmune diseases, and like the other 80-odd autoimmune diseases out there, they are subject to an incredible amount of individual variation; some people go into remission lasting many years with no interventions at all; others, like my son, have great difficulty staying in remission.
“Jordan Rubin’s website indicates that he has Crohn’s Disease, not ulcerative colitis. These two make up the principal inflammatory bowel diseases, and are treated with many of the same medications, but have different clinical courses. Neither has anything to do with IBS. The term “colitis” used by itself is confusing. IBS used to be “spasmodic colitis” years ago.
“I can’t tell if the people recommending coconut are talking about IBS or ulcerative colitis. It is true that many people living with inflammatory bowel disease find that following particular diets and avoiding particular foods makes a big difference in their symptoms. Be very wary, however, of anybody who says that any food is a cure or that these diseases are caused by food. This has been extensively researched for decades, and probiotics are being extensively researched now. There is no scientific evidence that diet is implicated in causing inflammatory bowel disease and it’s too early to tell about probiotics helping.
“Visit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America website (www.ccfa.org) to find more information, support and resources, including a discussion board and a help line.”
Have you had to deal with diarrhea from colitis? What has worked for you? Have you tried coconut macaroon cookies? Did they help? Please share your story in the comment section below.