Ulcerative Colitis: What Is It?

by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation or sores in the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum.  It happens when abnormal reactions of the immune system cause inflammation and ulcers on the inner lining of your large intestine.

Ulcerative colitis can begin gradually and become worse over time. However, it can also start suddenly. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. In between periods of flares, most people have periods of remission. Periods of remission can last for weeks or years.

How Common Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Research suggests that about 600,000 to 900,000 people in the United States have ulcerative colitis and is more likely to develop in people between the ages of 15 and 30, although the disease may develop in people of any age. Those with a first-degree relative—a parent, sibling, or child—with IBD are more likely to develop ulcerative colitis, especially those of Jewish descent.

What Are the Complications of Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis may lead to complications that develop over time, such as anemia, bone problems, such as osteopenia or osteoporosis. Problems with growth and development in children, such as gaining less weight than normal, slowed growth, short stature, or delayed puberty. Colorectal cancer, because patients with long-standing ulcerative colitis that involves a third or more of the colon are at increased risk and require close screening.

Some people with ulcerative colitis also have inflammation in parts of the body other than the large intestine, including the joints, skin, eyes, liver and bile ducts.

People with ulcerative colitis also have a higher risk of blood clots in their blood vessels.

What Are the Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis?

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary from person to person. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include diarrhea, passing blood with your stool or rectal bleeding, cramping and pain in the abdomen, passing mucus or pus with your stool, a constant urge to have a bowel movement even though your bowel may be empty and an urgent need to have a bowel movement. Symptoms can also include fatigue, or feeling tired, fever, nausea or vomiting and weight loss.

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

The following factors may play a role in causing ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis sometimes runs in families. Research suggests that certain genes increase the chance that a person will develop ulcerative colitis. Abnormal immune reactions of the immune system may play a role in causing ulcerative colitis. Abnormal immune reactions lead to inflammation in the large intestine. The microbes in your digestive tract—including bacteria, viruses, and fungi—that help with digestion are called the microbiome. Studies have found differences between the microbiomes of people who have IBD and those who do not.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

If you have ulcerative colitis, you should eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Ulcerative colitis symptoms may cause some people to lose their appetite and eat less, and they may not get enough nutrients. In children, a lack of nutrients may play a role in problems with growth and development. Healthier diets appear to be associated with less risk of developing ulcerative colitis. It may be helpful to keep a food diary to help identify foods that seem to make your symptoms worse.

It is important to understand that a healthy diet is the foundation. Certain foods trigger an aggressive immune response and inflammation in the digestive tract, and these foods need to be pinpointed and removed from your diet.

Some problematic foods include dairy products, spicy foods, and refined sugar. There are also beneficial foods that reduce inflammation and help with nutrient absorption, like omega-3 foods and probiotic foods.

People with ulcerative colitis may also want to swap out unhealthy fats for healthier options. This is because unhealthy fats, such as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, trans-fats and refined vegetable oils, can cause chronic inflammation. Healthy fats, on the other hand, are essential for everything from hormone production to cancer prevention, brain development, and weight loss.

Removing refined sugars and grains can also be helpful. During processing, refined grains are stripped of many important vitamins and minerals, producing a final product high in calories, carbs, and sugar, but lacking in essential nutrients.

White rice, pasta, and noodles are a few examples of refined grains that are low in the important micronutrients that your body needs. Swapping these foods out for healthy whole grain alternatives is a great way to squeeze some extra vitamins and minerals into your diet.

Exercise is also an important factor in treating ulcerative colitis, since the benefits of exercise are so wide-ranging. Moderate-intensity exercise reduces stress, which is a root cause of this inflammatory disease. Exercise (especially yoga and swimming) also stimulates digestion, boosts the immune system, and aids relaxation.

Relaxation is a vital element in combating ulcerative colitis because it calms the body and allows it to digest food more easily. Meditation, stretching, and breathing practices can help improve circulation, regulate the digestive system, and keep the body out of fight or flight mode.

If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Better yet, come to our Free Nutritional Seminars, held on the third Wednesday of every month. Call us for the time of the class. Dr. Lo will demonstrate Nutritional Response Testing®, using it to analyze the body and determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com.

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