Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) in the lining of the rectum and the colon. The formation of ulcers is caused by inflammation killing the cells that line the colon, resulting in bleeding and the production of pus, as well as frequent diarrhea. Treatment is dependent on the severity of the disease and typically includes a mix of medications. While there is no cure, there are a number of at-home and natural methods of treatment that can help alleviate the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis.
Though medication is the best way to treat the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, many opt to supplement this with a variety of natural or home-made remedies. While the medications treat the disease directly, natural treatments instead focus on healing the overall body and mind, the imbalance of which can lead to a number of physical ailments, especially those associated with the gastrointestinal system. MayoClinic.com mentions the use of nutritional supplements, probiotics (supplements that contain “good” bacteria) and fish oil as the most common forms of alternative treatment for ulcerative colitis. Research has shown probiotics to be very beneficial for gastrointestinal health. A Swedish study in 2005 showed that a group of individuals given Lactobacillus reuteri experienced fewer digestive, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems that caused them to miss work than those who did not take the probiotics.
Other natural remedies include boswellia, the extract of which possesses anti-inflammatory properties and thus an effective method of treatment against ulcerative colitis. According to Crohns.net, a study conducted comparing boswellia extract to mesalazine (considered one of the best medications for ulcerative colitis) shows that boswellia has fewer side effects and works just as well as mesalazine, making it a popular choice among those who employ natural treatment.
Other suggested natural remedies include St. John’s Wort (antiviral), echinacea (balances the immune system) and slippery elm powder (improves bowel flora). Crohns.net again reports of a study on a female ulcerative colitis patient who took a combination of these and boswellia and after six months showed no symptoms of the disease.
While the direct cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown–theories range from genetics to a problem with the immune system–a variety of outside factors such as diet and stress can exacerbate the symptoms and pain associated with the disease.
Diet and Stress
While the evidence is scant, and no FDA-approved studies have occurred, changing your diet and eliminating foods known to cause flare-ups or make the condition worse is always encouraged. Following a diet low in fiber (as fiber can make the pain of diarrhea and gas worse) and low in dairy while consuming enough water and eating small meals could help alleviate the symptoms and pain associated with ulcerative colitis.
Stress is a major factor in gastrointestinal health. In an interview with More.com, Dr. Kevin Olden of the University of South Alabama School of Medicine in Mobile discusses the link between the brain and the stomach, stating that both share a number of neurotransmitters chemical-receptor sites. He notes, however, that it might not all be in the head, and that research simply hasn’t found the physical cause for the number of stomach disorders that afflict millions.
Taking this into account, physical exercise, breathing and relaxation exercises, and possibly even hypnosis can be an effective way to relieve stress and thus help to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
As with all natural or at-home treatments, it is always recommended that you consult your physician before beginning a new regimen. Consulting with a dietitian is helpful to control your diet and find food-related triggers, while your medical doctor can help you configure an exercise plan that suits your needs.