Thursday, February 22, 2018 by Zoey Sky
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation and open sores in the digestive tract, or the lining of the colon (the large intestine). The inflammation makes the colon empty frequently, which then causes diarrhea.
The stool of a patient with ulcerative colitis may often be bloody, and the disease can cause abdominal cramps and pain. The disease is called ulcerative colitis because of the ulcers, or open sores, that it causes in the colon.
Known symptoms and risk factors of ulcerative colitis
The most common side effects of ulcerative colitis are diarrhea, which may be bloody or contain pus, and abdominal discomfort. Other signs and symptoms of the disease include:
- Anemia (when the body has fewer red blood cells than normal)
- Feeling tired
- Nausea (loss of appetite)
- An urgent need to defecate
- Weight loss
Less common symptoms of the disease include:
- Eye irritation
- Certain rashes
- Joint pain or soreness
Risk factors for ulcerative colitis include:
- Age – The disease can develop at any age, but individuals at risk are often 15 to 30 years old or those 50 to 70 years old.
- Ethnic background – There is a higher incidence of ulcerative colitis in white than in non-white people. There is also a higher incidence of the disease among Jewish than in non-Jewish people.
- A family history of IBD or other autoimmune diseases – At least 20 percent of patients with the disease also have a close relative with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease (another type of IBD), according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. A family history of other autoimmune diseases can increase the risk as well.
- Residence – Ulcerative colitis often occurs in developed countries. There are more patients who live in urban areas than rural ones, and in northern regions rather than in the southern regions of the U.S.
Body systems harmed by ulcerative colitis
According to research, an individual with ulcerative colitis “may also develop arthritis, eye inflammation, liver diseases, and osteoporosis.” Researchers have yet to determine how the disease affects these other health problems, but they believe that inflammation caused by the immune system may be connected. In some patients, a condition that involves areas outside of the large intestine may resolve itself when ulcerative colitis is treated.
At least five percent of people with ulcerative colitis develop colon cancer, a higher rate than for individuals without the disease. The risk of colon cancer increases in each decade following the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. Healthcare professionals may use colonoscopy to screen individuals with the disease for colon cancer.
Food items or nutrients that may prevent ulcerative colitis
The following herbal remedies can help manage the symptoms of ulcerative colitis:
- Boswellia – A naturally occurring herb, Boswellia is obtained from the resin part of tree bark. It can help inhibit certain chemical reactions caused by the disease that produce inflammatory mediators.
- Bromelain – An enzyme found in pineapples, bromelain can help ease the symptoms and reduce the frequency of flares associated with ulcerative colitis. The enzyme is proteolytic, or it helps break down proteins. This process can also provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Gingko biloba – The plant has effectively treated experimental colitis in rodents.
- Probiotics – Probiotics introduce healthy gut bacteria that can restore and maintain natural microbial flora in the gut. It can also help “reduce harmful inflammatory responses and maintain remission.”
- Psyllium seed/husk – Psyllium seed/husk “boosts gut motility, alleviates the symptoms of constipation, and improves the elimination of waste.”
- Turmeric – An Indian spice used in curry, turmeric can help people with ulcerative colitis. The curcumin in turmeric is an antioxidant and it can help decrease inflammation while boosting the effectiveness of traditional medical therapy.
An increased vitamin C intake can have a protective effect, and vitamin C-rich foods are linked with a longer remission phase among patients with ulcerative colitis. Some of these foods include:
- Bell peppers
Treatments and management options for ulcerative colitis
These remedies can help send ulcerative colitis into remission:
- Antibiotics – Can help fight infections caused by the disease. However, antibiotics won’t treat its underlying cause.
- Aminosalicylates – This class of medications can decrease inflammation and they are more effective when prescribed for people with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. Aminosalicylates can cause different side effects, like dizziness and appetite loss.
- Biologics – While biologics can suppress the immune reaction that causes ulcerative colitis, they can also “weaken the body’s ability to fight infection.”
- Corticosteroids – These are steroid drugs which can reduce the immune reaction that causes the disease. Corticosteroids are not ideal for long-term use since they can cause many side effects, such as “changes in mood, appetite, and sleep.”
- Drugs – Drugs such as anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea pills can be used “to address symptoms,” but these medicines won’t treat the underlying inflammation.
- Immune modifiers – Used to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. Take note that immune modifiers can make individuals more susceptible to infections.
Keep in mind that all treatments have benefits, risks, and side effects, and that these must be discussed with a healthcare professional.
Where to learn more
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It causes inflammation and open sores in the digestive tract, or the lining of the colon. The inflammation makes the colon empty frequently, which causes diarrhea.
The most common side effects of ulcerative colitis are diarrhea, which may be bloody or contain pus, and abdominal discomfort.
According to research, an individual with ulcerative colitis “may also develop arthritis, eye inflammation, liver diseases, and osteoporosis.”
An increased vitamin C intake can have a protective effect, and vitamin C-rich foods are linked with a longer remission phase among patients with ulcerative colitis.
These remedies can help send ulcerative colitis into remission: antibiotics, aminosalicylates, biologics, corticosteroids, drugs, and immune modifiers. Keep in mind that all treatments have benefits, risks, and side effects, and that these must be discussed with a healthcare professional.