Information about ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects above 500,000 Americans and around one hundred thousand people in Britain.
It causes recurrent inflammation and ulcers (open lesions) in the deepest clleular layers of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The swelling could be anywhere from a few inches in size to the length of the whole intestine. The ulcers develop wherever inflammation has destroyed the cells that normally line the colon. They bleed and release pus and mucus and the swelling stimulates the colon to clear out a lot, producing diarrhoea (among the signs and symptoms of this disease).
Ulcerative colitis resembles Crohn’s disease (a further IBD), but Crohn’s can be seen just about anywhere in the digestive tract (including the small intestine, mouth, esophagus and gut), often in patches, and can spread deeper into the tissue. By comparison, ulcerative colitis is typically limited to the deepest levels of tissue and is uniform through the entire colon.
Then again, ulcerative colitis is a systemic disease that can affect numerous other areas of the body beyond the intestine, particularly when not treated sensibly. For instance, the disorder is also connected with joint inflammation, eye infections, liver disease, skin rashes, blood clots and gallstones.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (which is a distinct disease), is occasionally called spastic colitis. This name oftentimes leads to confusion between the two diseases. Colitis is not always a feature of IBS. Since the etiology of IBS is currently unknown and perhaps multifactorial, there might be some overlap in symptoms between IBS and the various forms of colitis.
Triggers of ulcerative colitis
While studies have yet to prove one single trigger of ulcerative colitis, results suggest that hereditary factors, a malfunction of the immune system, the excessive use of antibiotics, nutrition and yet to be understood environmental factors all play a role in the causes and symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
One theory implies that some agent, perhaps a virus or an atypical bacterium, interacts with the body’s immune mechanism to stimulate an inflammatory reaction in the intestinal wall.
Studies have suggested that someone with a parent that has (or has had) colitis is five times more likely to develop the disorder themselves.
Signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is in many cases unpleasant and (on rare occasions) can have life-threatening complications. Cases of toxic megacolon or severe bleeding due to a particularly severe flare-up may be life threatening, which is the reason surgery is undertaken swiftly if these circumstances arise.
Sadly, it can be hard to diagnose because its indicators resemble a great many other intestinal disorders and IBDs. Clinical diagnosis is usually via colonoscopy. Other types of tests include blood counts and c-reactive proteins.
Individuals experiencing ulcerative colitis encounter a number of symptoms including bloody stool, sudden urgency, stomach pain, cramps and a feeling of sickness. The most recognised manifestation of the disease in active phases is diarrhoea mixed with blood. Although, if the disease is restricted to the rectosigmoidal area, then stools may be normal or dry – there might even be constipation. Quite often, rectal mucous accompanies stools or occurs between bowel movements.
Learning to live with ulcerative colitis
Generally, ulcerative colitis is a chronic, life-long illness, characterised by intervals of few symptoms (generally known as remission) and time periods of very active disease (known as flare-ups). Seeing that there is no known cure for ulcerative colitis, the principal mission in treating ulcerative colitis is to limit severe flare ups of the disease and to maintain remission, while providing time for the colon to heal.
People try to cope with the disease in several different ways, e.g. through prescription medications and surgery. Others prefer (or are in a position to adopt) less radical measures, such as sensible modifications in diet and supporting vitamin supplements. The kind of treatment often depends on how serious the disease is.
However, without appropriate treatment and/or lifestyle changes (for example eliminating food items that are known to irritate symptoms), the disease may become depleting and (on rare occasions) life-threatening.
Ulcerative colitis is more wide-spread in the West, which makes it rather more likely that diet has a key role to play in the development and persistence of the condition. Those that suffer from the disease are therefore normally advised to stay away from meals which are processed and/or are high in saturated fats and sugar, which can worsen diarrhea and gas symptoms, specifically at times of active disease. People who encounter cramping and diarrhoea may additionally obtain some relief by reduction of caffeine, fruits and certain vegetables.
Dietary changes can often be used to reduce the symptoms of the condition fairly successfully. It is interesting to note that many people with ulcerative colitis are also intolerant to lactose. As such, reducing lactose containing foods might help to ease the symptoms.
A different dietary approach that’s been used by numerous people is an anti-fungal and specific carbohydrate diet. Probiotics and bacterial re-colonization of friendly bacteria in the colon have also been seen to have a beneficial influence on individuals with ulcerative colitis. The use of probiotics can be especially helpful in terms of encouraging maintenance of colon health in periods of remission.
If dietary and lifestyle modification lead to a narrow diet, it’s very important to fend off malnutrition (which in some cases develops with ulcerative colitis). People who have the condition commonly experience decreased appetite and weight loss. Natural health supplements (in particular gluten, sugar and dairy free meal replacements) can support a limited diet, by supplying a source of fortified vitamins and minerals, which will not irritate the colon and are taken easily and quickly.
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*Always consult your doctor or a qualified health practitioner before altering your diet or taking health supplements, particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on medications.