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Ulcerative Colitis and Lifestyle

May 30, 2023
OIP

Thank you to our Naturopath, Genya Fleischer, for sharing this blog.

Ulcerative Colitis (UC), also known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)is a chronic condition affecting the lining of the large intestine and causing inflammation and ulcers. It often results in symptoms such as: 

  • frequent, urgent diarrhea 
  • bloody stool 
  • abdominal pain and cramping 
  • rectal pain 
  • Malnutrition 
  • weight loss 
  • fatigue 

There’s no cure for UC, but remission is possible with proper treatment and management. 

The first step toward remission is finding the right treatment regimen. Many people turn to alternative therapies and natural remedies to help manage UC alongside conventional treatments. 

Dietary changes, stress management, natural supplements and medications may help manage UC. 

Growing evidence suggests that food does indeed matter, as diet is both a risk factor and a therapeutic option. Increasing evidence associates Western diet and ultra-processed foods with the development of IBD, while growing evidence points to the therapeutic potential of manipulating diet. 

There are certain food supplements that may alleviate the symptoms of colitis and minimize its flare up: 

  • Probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that can provide lots of benefits to the gut, reducing inflammation, balancing the microbiome and restoring gut balance.  Foods that are rich in probiotics are yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir. 
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are helpful because of their anti-inflammatory effect. Foods high in Omega 3 include fatty fish, nuts, seeds (flaxseed and chia).  
  • Anti-inflammatory foods: include certain fruit such as berries, vegetables (dark leafy green), whole grains, certain fats (avocado, nuts) and lean protein (chicken, turkey, fish). 
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs:  Boswellia:  it was suggested that resin obtained from Boswellia plants may help reduce inflammation, which could be helpful for those with UC. 
  • Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, may help ease UC symptoms, and reduce the frequency of flares. It is proteolytic, which means that it helps break down proteins. Bromelain may also decrease intestinal inflammation and enhance intestinal cell function, which may help reduce UC symptoms. 
  • Turmeric, the Indian spice used in curry, may help people with UC, specifically, the curcumin found in turmeric is an antioxidant and appears to decrease inflammation while improving the effectiveness of traditional medical therapy. 
  • High fiber intake may also help some people. In addition to improving bowel regularity, it may improve the consistency of the stool. 
  • High vitamin C intake may have a protective effect, and vitamin C–rich foods may be associated with a longer remission phase. Some of these foods include:  berries, spinach, bell pepper, parsley. 

On the other hand, there are foods which can contribute to the inflammatory state of this condition, hence should be avoided: 

  • Dairy products: many people with colitis are also lactose intolerant. This can cause bloating, diarrhoea gas. It best to be replaced with milk alternatives such as almond milk, rice milk etc. 
  • Spicy foods: may irritate the lining of the gut and the intestines during flare ups. 
  • Processed foods: are usually high in fats, preservatives, salt, and colouring, all are highly inflammatory causing, hence it is advisable to avoid then as much as possible. 
  • Eliminating these foods and beverages may also decrease the frequency and severity of flares: alcohol, coffee, carbonated drinks, popcorn, gluten, meat, high carbohydrate foods, sugar. Lower fat diets seem to be particularly useful in delaying the recurrence of UC. 

UC leads to several symptoms, not just gastrointestinal ones. Aside from medications, other interventions and lifestyle changes, such as the following, can help improve health and quality of life. 

  • Exercise is important for everyone’s overall health. Its benefits vary from boosting immunity to improving mood and strengthening bone health. Try the following options: walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, rowing, yoga, pilates. 
  • Manage stress: as stress can trigger a UC flare taking steps to manage and relieve it can help coping, preventing UC flare. The following strategies can be useful: find a hobby, like reading or listening to music, dancing, meditation, Practice breathing exercises, join a club, Talk with a therapist. 

To conclude

Ulcerative colitis is the most common inflammatory bowel disease. Its hallmark symptom is the presence of bloody diarrhea. While the disease is not fatal, it can cause a lot of discomfort for its sufferers and lead to potentially threatening complications. 

The cause of UC is unknown, but lifestyle, genetics, and toxins seem to be predisposing factors. Living a clean and anti-inflammatory lifestyle can decrease the symptoms and flares of the disease. 

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