Are you a young adult suffering with intermittent bouts of bloody diarrhea and severe stomach cramping? Do your cramp symptom episodes come and go for no apparent reason? Then you should read on because you might need to be tested for an inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis starts with inflammation in the lining of your large intestine. With this digestive disease, the inflammation is chronic. So healthy cells in your intestinal lining die, which causes bleeding ulcers to form. And because the large bowel is the section of your intestines that absorbs excess water, this damage interferes with that process resulting in very loose stools.
The pattern of the colitis inflammation commences in the rectum and spread upwards into your colon in a continual manner, causing surface ulcers along the way. In contrast, Crohn’s disease occurs in deep ulcerated patches anywhere. Yet, both can mar your health and lead to life ending complications.
Although bloody diarrhea and stomach cramping (left side mostly) are the suggestive symptoms of ulcerative colitis, you may also experience:
- weight loss
- appetite loss
- uncontrollable rectal bleeding
Ulcerative colitis symptoms vary based on the severity of inflammation and extent of ulceration.
This chronic inflammatory condition may cycle through varying periods of flare ups and remissions. Some experience no discomfort for years, while others find no relief for their cramping and bloody diarrhea for long stretches. And severe, unrelenting colitis causes an increased risk of large intestinal cancer.
Ulcerative colitis can cause further health problems, even some serious complications, such as:
- mouth sores
- kidney stones
- toxic megacolon
- perforated bowel
- severe dehydration
- red, itchy painful, inflamed eyes
- skin ~ bumps, ulcers, lesions, rashes
- inordinate amount of intestinal bleeding
- liver disease ~ primary sclerosing cholangitis, hepatitis, cirrhosis
Several of these health situations are believed to be the result of your immune system being triggered and will likely resolve after you begin colitis diet and drug treatment.
The cause of ulcerative colitis remains unknown. One theory is you have an immune system abnormality, which causes it to react inappropriately either to a pathogen or something within the body itself (like an autoimmune disorder). There’s no known cure for ulcerative colitis. However, diet and lifestyle adjustments, coupled with drug treatment can dramatically reduce its symptoms.
Certain foods and drinks may aggravate your colitis caused stomach cramping and bloody diarrhea, so you need to identify and eliminate them from your diet. Some of the typical ones are:
- raw high fiber foods
- dairy if lactose intolerant
- high in fat, unless omega-3 fatty acids
- alcohol, caffeinated, carbonated beverages
- gas producing plant foods ~ beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, onions, popcorn, raw fruit
You’ll need to experiment in order to discover which foods actually trigger your symptoms. Also, consuming smaller, more frequent meals may help as well.
Because many of the foods you no longer eat contain essential nutrients, vitamin and mineral supplements are often necessary with a colitis diet to supply your body with what’s missing. Additionally, consuming prebiotics, probiotics, high dose of fish oil and aloe vera gel may offer some symptom relief benefits.
Also, electrolytes and fluids are lost through diarrhea, so during those episodes you must replace them to avoid dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. That blood loss via chronic intestinal bleeding puts you in jeopardy of developing iron deficiency anemia, so iron supplements may be ordered during various times in the course of your illness.
Beyond adjusting your diet, stress is another issue in the realm of lifestyle. Although stress doesn’t cause ulcerative colitis, it can make your symptoms much worse by altering the speed of digestion and increase the acid secreted. Therefore, managing your stress is a vital component of treatment.
Ulcerative colitis drug treatment is focused on reducing the inflammation that cause those ulcers resulting bloody diarrhea and stomach cramping symptoms. So generally, the initial course is taking anti-inflammatory drugs. However, this drug is not the only one used to battle colitis.
The combination of drugs used to treat your ulcerative colitis varies based on your own unique circumstances and severity at any given time. Couple of these other drug options are:
Unfortunately, some of these can cause undesirable drug side effects.
If after a period of time your colitis diet, stress reduction and drug therapy fail to relieve symptoms or complications that create a life threatening situation, then surgery can eliminate ulcerative colitis completely. How? Removal of your entire large bowel, which requires your digestive waste to be excreted in an alternate way.