Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Part 2): Ulcerative Colitis

July 23, 2010

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can be a painful, life long condition if not properly cared for, but can be difficult to recognize. It’s important to know whether you’re showing ulcerative colitis symptoms, or crohns disease symptoms, the two biggest forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Generally, ulcerative colitis symptoms and crohns disease symptoms are treated the same way, but knowing what you have may help figure out a cause or trigger, and will effect the choices you make regarding your treatment if you have severe inflammatory bowel disease.

Risk factors for IBD include diet and environment, genes and your immune system. If your immune system is weak, you may be more prone to inflammation. If you have a gene that causes an auto-immune reaction to either foreign pathogens or what naturally exists in your body, this may also cause inflammatory Bowel Disease. Although inflammation is a natural process, if it becomes uncontrolled in the body it can increase the likelihood of certain diseases while worsening others.

Ulcerative Colitis is a continuous area of the bowel affected by inflammation, usually part of the large intestine. The inner lining becomes inflamed, and ulcers (open wounds) may develop. Potentially, the inflammation can spread throughout your body, causing joint pain or arthritis, skin irritations, or liver problems.

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms:

  • Frequent diarrhea is a common ulcerative colitis symptom, and may indicate the severity of the inflammation (the more movements, the more likely it’s severe).
  • Pain; can be caused or worsened as food passes through the bowel and irritates ulcers, or as severe muscle cramps
  • Constipation
  • If you have ulcers on your bowels, you may see dark red blood in your stool. If you see fresh blood, it’s probably from an ulcer or tear on your anus.
    • Loosing too much blood can cause anemia.
  • When your gastrointestinal tract stops functioning properly, it may not absorb all the necessary nutrients and may leak water and salt, further causing:
    • Dehydration
    • A lack or appetite
    • Malnutrition
      • Impairment of development or growth in kids and teens
      • Weight loss
      • Bone Loss (if, over years of IBD, not enough calcium is absorbed).
  • Kidney Stones or Gall Stones

See your doctor for a proper diagnoses to determine what kind of inflammatory bowel disease you have. Your doctor may prescribe a treatment to help control symptoms which can include antibiotics (watch for a lasting fever, which indicates infection), anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressives. In severe cases, surgery is sometimes prescribed, and for ulcerative colitis there is evidence that it’s reasonably successful, although there can still be complications. A gastroenterologist can help describe your options and make a recommendation based on your symptoms and overall health.

To help ease your symptoms and their consequences (malnutrition, weight loss), there are a number of things you can do.

  1. Stop the source of inflammatory bowel disease: inflammation. Reducing the amount of Omega-6 in your diet, which is found in animal products and any greasy or fried foods while increasing the amount of Omega-3 (so that it’s balanced with your Omega-6 intake) and other antioxidants may help. Omega-3 is found in places like fish oil and walnuts, and antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables.
  2. Strengthen your immune system and avoid things that contribute to inflammation. That means keeping yourself healthy, avoiding too much stress, and listening to and meeting your bodies needs.
  3. Experiment with what you eat until you know what your GI tract can manage, then eat slowly throughout the day. Fill any gaps in your diet with either a general multivitamin or a specifically targeted multivitamin, or both (for example, you may want a calcium supplement on top of a multivitamin to fight off bone loss).
  4. Help your body digest by adding enzymes and probiotics to your diet. If adding probiotics, do so slowly in case your IBD is caused by an overreaction of your immune system.

(To Read Inflammatory Bowel Disease Part 1 About Crohn’s Disease, Click Here)

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