Recommended Vitamins and Supplements for Ulcerative Colitis

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Woman shopping for vitamins
  • Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, affects the body’s ability to take in and absorb nutrients. The disease can cause loss of appetite, making it difficult for people to eat enough food to get sufficient amounts of recommended vitamins and minerals. During flare-ups, it may be necessary to temporarily avoid certain foods. And an inflamed colon—a primary symptoms of ulcerative colitis—simply is not able to absorb nutrients as well as a healthy colon, which means people with ulcerative colitis are at risk for nutritional deficiencies. Doctors often recommend these supplements and vitamins for ulcerative colitis.

  • 1
    Calcium
    calcium pills

    Corticosteroid medications can control ulcerative colitis symptoms, but they can also weaken the bones. Eating foods high in calcium (such as milk, tuna, salmon, eggs and dark leafy greens) is a good idea, but additional supplementation may be necessary to prevent or slow bone loss. Your healthcare provider will monitor your bone health and make recommendations regarding calcium supplementation. Ask your provider how much calcium you should take each day.

  • 2
    Vitamin D
    Vitamin D pills

    Vitamin D deficiencies are common in people with inflammatory bowel disease, and a deficiency of vitamin D can affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which can further threaten bone health. As a result, physicians recommend patients with ulcerative colitis take 800 IU of vitamin D per day. Vitamin D and calcium are most effective when taken together, so it’s a good idea to take your vitamin D and calcium supplements at the same time.

  • 3
    Vitamin B12
    vitamin B12 (cobalamin) capsules, concept image

    Vitamin B12 is important for a healthy nervous system; it also plays a role in red blood cell formation and helps the body efficiently use energy. This vitamin is absorbed in the lower part of the small intestine, so if that part of your intestine is affected by ulcerative colitis, you might not be absorbing enough vitamin B12 and may need to take a supplement. People who have had their intestines surgically removed also require vitamin B12 supplementation.

  • 4
    Iron
    red tablet pills

    Iron-deficiency anemia–a condition characterized by reduced amounts of red blood cells due to a deficiency of iron in the body–affects 36 to 76% of people with inflammatory bowel disease, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Iron-deficiency anemia can cause weakness and, in extreme cases, shortness of breath. Your healthcare provider can monitor the amount of iron in your body with a simple blood test. If your levels are low, you may need to take an iron supplement.

  • 5
    Vitamins A, E and K
    vitamins A, E and K-rich sweet potato and spinach bowl with poached eggs on top

    Vitamins A, E and K (and D) are fat-soluble vitamins; the body absorbs them along with fats in the diet. Bowel inflammation can affect your body’s ability to absorb fat and these essential vitamins. People whose small intestines are affected by ulcerative colitis may have lower-than-optimal levels of vitamins A, E and K. Eating foods high in these vitamins (including carrots, sweet potatoes, almonds, sunflower seeds and oil, spinach, and broccoli) can help, but your doctor might also recommend oral supplements to maintain good health.

  • 6
    Zinc
    zinc capsules

    The mineral zinc is essential for a healthy immune system. It’s also important for wound healing and proper growth and development. Unfortunately, severe diarrhea and extensive inflammation of the small intestine can cause zinc deficiency. If you experience any symptoms of zinc deficiency (a rash; changes in your sense of smell, sight or taste; or poor wound healing), tell your healthcare provider. A daily zinc supplement may ease your symptoms.

  • 7
    Probiotics
    packages capsules of probiotics

    Probiotics are “good” bacteria that may help maintain health. There is some evidence to suggest that taking probiotic pills increases the population of “good” bacteria in the gut and may decrease ulcerative colitis symptoms. Some studies have even found probiotics may help people with ulcerative colitis remain in remission. You can buy probiotics over the counter, but it’s a good idea to discuss probiotic supplementation with your healthcare provider before you purchase and begin taking a probiotic.

  • 8
    Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    Young woman holding vitamin pill and glass of water

    Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, so it seems possible that an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids might lead to decreased colon inflammation and improved ulcerative colitis symptoms. Unfortunately, scientific studies so far have shown mixed results. Some studies have linked omega-3 supplementation to prolonged remission; other studies have found no benefit.

    Nutritional supplementation for ulcerative colitis should be tailored to your needs. Your healthcare provider can help you determine which supplements and doses are best for you.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 May 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Malnutrition and IBD. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/diet-and-nutrition/malnutrition-and-ibd.html
  2. Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/resources/complementary-alternative.html
  3. Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/diet-and-nutrition/supplementation.html
  4. Ulcerative Colitis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/ulcerative-colitis
  5. Limketkai, A. (2015). Dietary Supplement Therapies for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(2), 180-188. Retrieved from http://www.eurekaselect.com/136896/article