Ulcerative Colitis: Causes, Symptoms & Remedies

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Millions of Americans suffer from an uncomfortable condition called ulcerative colitis or UC. This gastrointestinal disorder can lead to long-term nausea, abdominal discomfort, and other symptoms. Even worse, it frequently crops up alongside other autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease.

But don’t worry. If you or someone you know has ulcerative colitis, there are multiple remedies you can pursue with the help of your doctor or by making some lifestyle changes at home. 

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

In a nutshell, ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that affects your gastrointestinal tract. It’s also a type of inflammatory bowel disease. UC causes your large intestine and or the rectum to become inflamed, which eventually produces ulcers (tiny sores) on its lining. Typically, ulcerative colitis starts in the rectum and spreads up to affect the entire colon if left unchecked.

Ulcerative colitis causes enough inflammation that your bowels move their contents faster and more frequently than normal. This can strip away the lining of the intestine even further and eventually catch bleeding or discharge mucus.

Although ulcerative colitis can affect anyone, most people affected by this condition are between the ages of 15 and 35.

Causes of Ulcerative Colitis

Unfortunately, ulcerative colitis can be caused by a wide variety of factors and origins. These include:

  • Genetics – you might simply be unlucky and ulcerative colitis could be in your family, making you more likely to develop this condition.
  • Autoimmune disorders, which can affect the health of the gut microbiome and eventually lead to the rectum and/or colon becoming inflamed.
  • Environmental factors like bacteria or viruses that may be affecting your body and its immune system. Bacteria can also invade the digestive tract and push out healthy bacteria, leading to rectal or colon inflammation.

Although ulcerative colitis can come from a variety of origins, there are also multiple ways to treat this condition both temporarily and permanently.

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis are tough to deal with because they are uncomfortable. The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person, and some people may even be fortunate enough to experience no symptoms (during a timeframe called remission).

But ulcerative colitis can always return in a “flare-up”. Regardless, ulcerative colitis symptoms include:

  • Bloody stools or pus discharge.
  • High Frequency of bowel movements, weight loss, nausea, and fatigue.
  • Inflammation of the eye, joints or liver.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain, cramping. 
  • Rectal pain, bleeding from the anus.
  • Fever.
  • Weight loss.
  • Malnutrition since your digestive tract doesn’t absorb nutrients as efficiently as before.

If your ulcerative colitis is caused by another immune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis, it can also cause complications such as flare-ups of other conditions or diseases and risk of colon cancer. Thus, you may experience symptoms like joint pain, nausea, eye inflammation, and more.

Remedies for Ulcerative Colitis

Depending on the severity of your UC, there are a variety of treatments and remedies you can pursue.

Diagnosis

Your doctor may suggest blood tests to scan for anemia, which will detect if there are enough red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your tissues, as well as to check for signs of infection. Other tests may indicate inflammation, such as a high level of C-reactive protein.  Furthermore, you will need screening more often for colon cancer because of your increased risk.

Medication

The first of these is medication. Your doctor might prescribe medication for mild symptoms, which can help to reduce swelling and inflammation. Medication may also reduce many of the other mild symptoms you can experience. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend a more intense drug called a biologic. Biologic drugs are antibody medications that can help to block inflammation and prevent your symptoms from flaring up. If your UC is caused by a wider problem with your immune system, your doctor may prescribe an immunomodulator, which affects how your immune system works.

Lifestyle Changes

Medications, while sometimes effective, can have wide-ranging side effects or cause big changes in your life. So you can also pursue other remedies or home treatments to reduce your ulcerative colitis or at least alleviate its symptoms.

Lifestyle changes can do a lot more for alleviating your UC symptoms than you might think. For example, consider switching to a low-fat diet. Fat can fuel harmful bacteria in the colon and rectum, potentially exacerbating your ulcerative colitis symptoms.

You should also try to eat fiber more often. Fiber helps to scrape away bacteria and junk in your digestive tract and can be helpful fuel for positive bacteria in your gut microbiome.

Plus, changing your lifestyle to include a healthier diet will make you feel better and result in more energy in your day-to-day activities. What’s not to like?

Vitamin C-Rich Foods

We’d also recommend targeting vitamin C-rich foods. Vitamin C is one of the best vitamins for boosting the efficacy of your immune system. The stronger your immune system is, the less likely your ulcerative colitis will flare up and cause harsh symptoms.

Vitamin C-rich foods include many types of popular fruits and even certain vegetables.

Herbal Remedies

You can also pursue various herbal remedies and tonics. Certain herbs can do wonders for alleviating the effects of ulcerative colitis or improving your gut health. These include:

  • Turmeric, a soothing agent renowned for its medicinal properties. You can find turmeric in a variety of foods and recipes.
  • Bromelain enzymes are found in pineapples or can be picked up as supplements. These are well known to help reduce the severity of UC flare ups.
  • Boswellia is an herb found in a particular type of tree bark. When ingested in tea, it can help reduce discomfort and reduce chemical reactions that lead to intestinal problems.
  • Probiotics are another good choice. These include foods like yogurt and other dairy products. Probiotics are helpful bacteria you can use to supplement the bacteria already in your gut. The more probiotics you have, the less likely it is that harmful bacteria can take hold and cause problems.

Summary

All in all, ulcerative colitis is uncomfortable to deal with but is far from unmanageable. Speak to your doctor and consider trying some of the wellness and lifestyle tips we’ve described above. 

Sources

Overview of Ulcerative Colitis | Crohns Colitis Foundation

Ulcerative Colitis – StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf

The role of dietary fibre in inflammatory bowel disease | NCBI

Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health | NCBI

Bromelain Treatment Decreases Secretion of Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines and Chemokines by Colon Biopsies In Vitro | NCBI

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