Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and bloody stools. Although weight loss is a common symptom of UC, sometimes the condition can cause a person to gain weight.
UC is a relatively common long-term condition that causes the immune system to respond abnormally. This immune response creates inflammation in the colon and causes ulcers in the inner wall of the colon.
A person with UC may experience some of the following symptoms:
UC can cause various other symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, nausea, and anemia.
These symptoms often only appear during the flare-up, which usually occurs before a period of remission. When a person is in remission, there may be little or no symptoms.
Although it is common to lose weight as a result of UC, some people may gain weight as a result of the disease.
UC can cause both weight gain and weight loss.
UC can affect a person’s ability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients from it. This can lead to serious vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition. Both of these effects can cause a person with UC to lose weight.
However, there are several reasons why UC can also cause a person to gain weight. These include:
- Problems eating certain foods
- Difficulty exercising
- certain UC drugs that may promote weight gain
There’s not a lot of research into whether UC can cause gas. However, a 2016 study found that people with irritable bowel syndrome, including UC, had significantly worse abdominal pain, gas, and gas than people in the general population.
Flatulence vs. Weight Gain
Flatulence is different from gaining weight. Weight gain occurs over time when a person regularly consumes more calories than they use up from exercise and normal physical activity.
Flatulence occurs when a person’s gastrointestinal tract is filled with air or other gases.
When a person is bloated, their stomach may feel full and tight, like they have eaten a large meal. This feeling can be uncomfortable or even painful, and can make a person’s belly appear larger than usual.
Learn more about 18 ways to reduce gas here.
There are several possible causes of weight gain in people with UC.
Difficulty eating certain foods
Some people with UC may have trouble eating certain foods that are usually part of a nutritious diet, such as whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, skin-on and seeded fruits, and nuts. Different foods can cause flare-ups in different people.
Eating a balanced diet is a key factor in helping a person maintain a moderate weight. However, when certain foods trigger flare-ups, it can make a nutritious diet difficult.
Find out more about proper nutrition for ulcerative colitis here.
Difficulty exercising regularly
Exercise is another key factor in helping a person maintain a moderate weight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that adults should receive at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.
Some symptoms of UC can make it difficult for a person to exercise regularly.
People with UC may have stomach aches, feel tired, and go to the bathroom often. This combination of symptoms can lower energy levels and affect the ability to exercise.
Some UC drugs can cause weight gain
Some UC drugs can cause a person to gain weight. These include:
Corticosteroids such as prednisone can cause weight gain. Long-term use of these drugs can also lead to a decrease in healthy muscle mass.
Biologics or anti-tumor necrosis factor agents are common treatments for UC and can cause weight gain.
For example, some evidence links the usual biological treatment infliximab (Remicade) to weight gain. A 2018 study suggests that Remicade may cause weight gain in people with UC if they use it for long periods of time. However, more research is needed to confirm this effect.
A balanced diet is the key to a moderate weight.
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation recommends that people with UC avoid a number of potential triggering foods to minimize the chance of relapses.
Some of these foods can also contribute to weight gain. For example:
- Dairy products: These include milk, cream, cheese, and soft cheese.
- Sugary foods: Examples are sweets, pastries, and juices.
- High fat foods: Butter, cream, and fatty, fried, or greasy foods can all contribute to weight gain.
- Alcoholic drinks: A person may want to exclude beer, wine, and spirits from their diet or limit their consumption.
People with UC can identify foods that they can tolerate, that are also healthy, and that contribute to a balanced diet.
These foods vary from person to person, but can include:
- Low fiber fruits: These include bananas, melons, and honeydew melons.
- Lean protein: Examples include fish, lean pork, white meat, eggs, and firm tofu.
- Refined Grains: Humans can tolerate sourdough and gluten-free bread, white pasta and rice, and oatmeal.
- Vegetables: The best options are grilled, steamed, or boiled vegetables.
Find out more about what to eat to reduce colon inflammation here.
People with UC who are worried about gaining weight can take steps to prevent it. These include:
- Eat a varied and nutritious diet
- Eat between four and six small meals a day
- staying hydrated all day
- if possible, exercise regularly
- Take a short brisk walk every day
- Measure portions and check portion sizes
- Keep a food diary to monitor daily caloric intake and UC symptoms
- Prepare healthy meals in advance that contain nutritious, well-tolerated foods
Weight loss is a common symptom of ulcerative colitis. However, in some cases, this condition can cause a person to gain weight.
Some people with UC may have difficulty eating a balanced diet, while others may not be able to exercise regularly due to symptoms such as stomach pain and fatigue. Some UC drugs can also cause a person to gain weight.
A person may want to try a varied, nutritious diet and exercise regularly to prevent weight gain.