Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation and sores to form along the inside lining of the colon. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis happen gradually over time and may have severe consequences if left untreated.
While there is no definitive known cure for this condition, proper care and treatment can bring about a significant reduction in symptoms and can cause remission in some cases.
Options to discuss with a healthcare professional include the following…
1. Sulfa Drugs
Sulfa drugs, such as balsalazide, olsalazine, mesalamine, and sulfasalazine are most commonly used to treat ulcerative colitis.
These are taken in tablet or suppository form, and they are designed to curb inflammation in the bowels. Talk to your doctor if you are allergic to sulfa, as this could cause a host of other symptoms that could further complicate your healing.
If these drugs are not an option, the following may work instead…
Corticosteroids are human-made medications designed to work similarly to the naturally occurring hormone, cortisol. Importantly, this hormone plays a key role in regulating inflammation.
Corticosteroids were designed to reduce inflammation quickly, but they are not a good long-term solution for treatment, as their long-term use can cause side effects and health consequences.
Another form of drug therapy includes the following…
Drugs such as azathioprine, cyclosporine, and tacrolimus can help suppress unnecessary immune system responses that trigger bowel inflammation. As a result, they can help the immune system function more efficiently. When taking these drugs, the digestive system is allowed to begin healing without the threat of antibodies attacking the process of cellular renewal and repair.
However, because these drugs suppress the immune system, they do make people more susceptible to infections, so ask your doctor about potential side effects or interactions before you take them.
Of course, medications are only one part of a holistic treatment plan…
4. Fiber-Rich Foods
For those wishing to reduce their symptoms more naturally, there are some diet changes that can be implemented to restore gut health. Foods rich in fiber can clean out the digestive tract. These foods include oats, bran, barley, nuts, whole grains, broccoli, and apples.
If you have a narrowing or a deformity of the intestine, however, you may have to avoid these foods, as they can cause additional cramping and stomach upset.
Another dietary change to consider is the following…
5. High-Protein Foods
Lean sources of protein that are also minimally processed are good choices for reducing UC symptoms. Foods like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, tofu, and nuts are great protein options to incorporate into your meals. Not only will high-protein foods maintain your protein supply, but they will reduce inflammation, too.
Be sure to balance out your meals with the following…
6. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of your diet. Specifically, peas, carrots, green beans, cucumbers, squash, mangos, papayas, bananas, and peeled apples are good for people with UC.
If you find that peels and seeds irritate your colon and cause symptom flare-ups, remove them before eating.
As you plan your meals, make sure to include the following…
7. Calcium-Rich Foods
Calcium has a soothing effect on the stomach and the bowel linings. So, it makes sense that increasing calcium intake can improve ulcerative colitis symptoms. Aim for two servings daily of calcium-rich foods for anti-inflammatory benefits. Greens, yogurt, milk, and kefir are all excellent sources of calcium.
The following UC-fighting solution can be taken in either food or supplement form…
Probiotics help to balance the good and bad gut bacteria. Imbalance can result in inflammation, so it’s critical to keep up with a healthy diet. Foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh. If you’re unsure how to best incorporate probiotics into your diet, talk to a medical professional.
In severe UC cases , the following treatment option may be necessary…
More severe cases of ulcerative colitis may require surgical interventions. While these procedures are known to be effective, they come with the risk of complications.
Most surgical procedures aimed at reducing UC symptoms involve removing part or all of the colon and rectum. In these cases, a patient would have to wear a stoma, or pouch, on the body at all times to collect waste as it accumulates. Wearing a device like this comes with potential risks and complications, too.
The following dietary add-ons are worth discussing with your doctor or a licensed dietitian…
10. Herbs and Supplements
Specific herbs and supplements, when taken as directed by your doctor, can be quite effective in reducing symptoms of UC. Some of these supplements include aloe vera juice, butyrate, tormentil extract, wheatgrass juice, and curcumin.
Talk to your doctor before trying any herbal supplement, as they may interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
The following UC treatment is something everyone should be doing…
Exercise is a great way to keep food and undigested matter moving through your colon. Partaking in moderate exercise three to four days a week can release protective myokines to promote healing and reduce inflammation in the bowels.
Yoga is an excellent treatment for UC, as it promotes relaxation and reduces inflammation. If you don’t currently have an exercise routine set up, take it slow when you start, as too much activity and sore muscles can lead to additional systemic inflammation.
The following UC treatment is critical, although it’s easier said than done…
12. Reduce Stress
Stress plays a giant role in the development of ulcerative colitis. But, you can counteract stress by practicing deep breathing, relaxation, and meditation techniques for a few minutes daily. Other stress-reducing activities include yoga, reading, drinking tea, walking, watching a movie, or talking with friends or family can help, too.
Our final UC treatment is easy to find at your local pharmacy…
13. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements
While ulcerative colitis can bring about some major discomfort, it can be managed by following simple treatment protocols that will delay and possibly even prevent surgery. You don’t have to live with this condition in pain and frustration; making a few changes to your diet, exercise, and lifestyle regime will bring about beneficial and lasting results.
Omega-3 fatty acids are effective at lubricating the lining of the colon and reducing inflammation. Talk to your doctor for advice on which supplements and doses will be most effective in treating your symptoms.