Who is affected by ulcerative colitis?
May affect as many as 700,000 Americans
- Men and women are equally affected
- Most people are diagnosed in their mid thirties
- The disease can occur at any age
How does ulcerative colitis affect your life?
Ulcerative colitis can be mild, moderate or severe. This also makes it hard to live with, during flare ups it may seem like you’re always in the bathroom. This can be embarrassing, takes a toll on your self esteem, and heighten your stress level by not knowing when your symptoms will strike next.
There are times of remission that may last from weeks to years that are interrupted by flare ups of moderate symptoms. 5 – 10 out of 100 people who have ulcerative colitis have symptoms all the time.
Specific complications can include but are not limited to:
- Narrowed areas of the intestine, making it hard to pass stool
- Increased risk of cancer, in the colon and rectum, the risk increases if you have had ulcerative colitis for longer than eight years
- Joint pain, skin problems, and eye problems
- Toxic mega colon-the colon swelling to many times its normal size (rare but immediate treatment is necessary)
- Scarring of the bile ducts and pancreas are among other rare complications.
Always work with your doctor to determine what treatment is best for you, ulcerative colitis affects everyone in different ways.
Mild symptoms may only require over the counter medications (such as Imodium), however more severe symptoms may require prescription medications (such as aminosalicylates, steroid medicines) that reduce the body’s immune responses.
In some cases, certain foods will trigger symptoms or make them worse; obviously it would be a good idea to avoid those foods. Keep in mind that a healthy varied diet to maintain a healthy weight and keep your strength is a necessity.
Please talk with your doctor or other trained professional before beginning any of these protocols on your own.
- Special diets or nutritional supplements (such as probiotics)
- Fatty acids found in oily fish (such salmon and tuna)
- Vitamin supplements (such as vitamin D and B12)
- Herbs (such as aloe and ginseng)
- Reflexology (specifically feet, hands, ears)
- Chiropractic therapy
You have concerns regarding your diet and nutrition…good, that’s common and appropriate. Diet can affect the symptoms of ulcerative colitis and play a role in the underlying inflammatory process; however it does not appear to be a direct cause of the inflammation.
Another item you should know: There is no evidence that anything you ate in past can cause or contribute to causing ulcerative colitis or any other IBD. But, paying attention to what you eat after you’re diagnosed can be very beneficial in symptom reduction and promotion of healing.
There is no one diet that will work for everyone, that’s with or without ulcerative colitis. It is best if you work with a dietary professional (nutritionist, dietician) to determine your individual dietary needs. IBDs are fluid, meaning they change over time and your eating habits need to change with them.
You should strive for a well balanced, healthy diet that includes an adequate amount of calories, proteins, and nutrients. This can be achieved by including a variety of foods from all food groups.
Restoring and maintaining good nutrition is essential for those with ulcerative colitis and other IBDs because:
- Medications are more effective in a well nourished body
- When proteins and other nutrients are lost in IBDs, more food must be taken in to compensate, this may be difficult during flare ups.
- Lost proteins, calories, and other nutrients may cause growth retardation in children and teenagers.
- Weight loss in girls and women can affect menstrual cycles by affecting hormone levels.
It is important that you work with your doctor and nutrition professional to develop a dietary plan that will not only allow you to be healthy but heal as well.
Pittsburgh sources for IBD support
Sources for part 2