What is ulcerative colitis?
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), “Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the large intestine, also known as the colon, in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops tiny open sores, or ulcers, that produce pus and mucous. The combination of inflammation and ulceration can cause abdominal discomfort and frequent emptying of the colon. “
What happens in the body?
Ordinarily our immune system protects us from infection, when Irritable Bowel Diseases (IBD) like ulcerative colitis get involved, they trick the immune system into mistaking things like food, good bacteria, and other stuff that is supposed in our intestines for invaders that need to be defended against. The body then sends the military forces (white blood cells) into the intestinal lining where they cause chronic inflammation and ulcerations.
What’s the difference between the IBDs?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - a common disorder that affects your large intestine (colon); Causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating gas, diarrhea and constipation; doesn’t cause permanent damage to your colon
Crohn's disease - causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and even malnutrition; Inflammation can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people
Signs and Symptoms
½ of all patients with ulcerative colitis will have mild symptoms such as:
- Bowel movements become looser and more urgent
- Persistent diarrhea accompanied by abdominal pain and blood in the stool
- Stool is generally bloody
- Crampy abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite followed by a loss of weight
- Low energy and fatigue
The above symptoms may come and go, with varying periods of time between flare ups as little as a month or as much as years.
If you are experiencing any or all of the above, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR!
What causes ulcerative colitis?
Some studies indicate it could be a mix of factors like:
- Inherited genes
- Individual’s immune system
- Environmental factors
Researchers have stated that once an IBD patient’s immune system is turned on it does not know how to shut off after the situation is handled; leading to the symptoms and long term damage created by ulcerative colitis.
There are other studies that think that ulcerative colitis could be caused by a viral or bacterial infection in the colon interacting with the immune system response; causing the expected response of inflammation to fight off a foreign invader (illness, infection) then the inflammation ceasing when the invader is conquered. Unfortunately for folks with IBDs this inflammation does not go away after the immune system has done its job.