The Most Common Ulcerative Colitis Triggers

Jun 01, 2023

The Most Common Ulcerative Colitis Triggers

The symptoms of an ulcerative colitis flare-up are extremely unpleasant and can seriously limit your life. So, it makes sense that avoiding a flare-up is best, which starts with understanding your triggers.

Diarrhea, bloating, and cramping are just a few unpleasant symptoms that often accompany an ulcerative colitis flare-up. It’s safe to say that, for the 600,000-900,000 people in the United States who have ulcerative colitis, preventing the flare-ups in the first place is the best way to deal with this difficult condition.

To that end, it’s important to identify the triggers that send your lower digestive tract into distress. While the team of colorectal experts here at Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery recognizes that these triggers may vary for people with ulcerative colitis (UC), some are more common than others.

In the following, we explore some of the most common ulcerative colitis triggers and how you can figure out your own triggers.

Why trigger management is so important

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease affecting your lower digestive tract — typically your rectum and your colon — and often comes and goes. Because we don’t know exactly what causes UC, the best way to manage the problem is to prevent flare-ups and keep the disease in remission.

No two people with UC experience the same exact patterns or symptoms, so it’s important to track the circumstances that precede a flare-up. By circumstances, we’re referring to conditions or foods that often trigger a UC flare-up.

A great way to track your triggers is to keep a diary outlining what you ate, drank, and felt before your UC symptoms started. Over time, a pattern will emerge that identifies the triggers that are in evidence before each flare-up. 

Once you understand what triggers your UC, you can take steps to avoid them to keep the condition quiet. 

Common ulcerative colitis triggers

While people may have unique triggers, some are cited far more often than others, including:


There’s no shortage of stress these days, and, unfortunately, this is one of the most commonly identified UC triggers. When you’re stressed, your body can develop systemic inflammation, which includes your digestive tract. 


For more obvious reasons, dietary triggers are common among those who have UC, and some of the more common culprits associated with flare-ups include:

  • Caffeine
  • Fried, greasy foods
  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Dairy products
  • Sugary foods
  • Nuts and whole grains

Again, your dietary triggers may differ, so it’s important to track your diet in a food diary.

Outside of stress and diet, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, as well as antibiotics, are also known triggers for ulcerative colitis.

By managing your triggers better, you stand a better chance of keeping your UC in remission. That said, about 30% of people with UC undergo surgery to remedy the uncomfortable condition. 

Whether you need help managing your UC or suspect you need surgery, you’ve come to the right place. For expert care of your ulcerative colitis, we invite you to schedule an appointment by contacting one of our offices in Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Alexandria, Gainesville, Woodbridge, or Lansdowne, Virginia.