Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a member of a group of health problems called inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). This particular condition causes the swelling and formation of ulcers or sores in the digestive tract, in particular the innermost lining of the large intestines and rectum.
About 50% of all UC sufferers experience mild symptoms only, while the rest are bugged by various debilitating problems that stem from UC, with some of them leading to serious complications.
The most common symptoms of UC include abdominal pain and diarrhea that is usually tinged with blood or pus. Other symptoms are fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, bleeding from the rectum, anemia, skin sores and joint pain. Children afflicted with ulcerative colitis may encounter growth failure.
As of now, there is no known cure for UC. The good news is there are various treatment approaches that can greatly improve the signs and symptoms. Sufferers who respond well to treatments prescribed by specialists may even experience long-term remission, a state wherein the signs and symptoms are absent or greatly reduced.
Health authorities are unsure as to what causes ulcerative colitis. In the past, they thought that stress and diet were the cause, but eventually it’s been established that both only aggravate the condition and not really serve as causative factors.
Experts believe that one of the causes of UC is an improper response of the body’s immune system to some microorganisms in the large intestines, including beneficial bacteria. It is also thought that the condition may be due to certain disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Ulcerative colitis seems more common among individuals who have relatives with the disease. However, majority of sufferers don’t actually have UC family history.
As mentioned earlier, ulcerative colitis may lead to certain life-threatening complications. If not treated properly by a specialist, toxic megacolon (severe infection and inflammation of the large intestines) and perforated colon (a hole in the large intestines) may develop. Other serious complications include blood loss, severe dehydration, osteoporosis (loss of bone density), increased blood clot formation risk, liver disease and inflammation of the skin, eyes, mouth and joints. Someone who is afflicted with UC may be at higher risk of suffering from colon cancer.
Ulcerative colitis is a disease that cannot be prevented. However, reduction of the symptoms is very much possible through medical treatments. Similarly, a UC sufferer may attain relief from the condition by eating foods that are highly recommended for anyone who has UC. These are some of the best foods to consume:
- Fresh fruits. Experts recommend anyone with ulcerative colitis to include lots of fresh fruits in the diet. That’s because they are packed with vitamins and water that help in the relief of some of the most common UC symptoms. Additionally, fresh fruits do not contain a lot of fiber that the large intestines may not be able to tolerate. It’s important, however, for the likes of dried fruits, plums, rhubarb, coconut and figs to be avoided as they contain too much fiber.
- Soft and bland foods. The likes of oatmeal, boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, brown rice, gelatin, noodles, canned vegetables, and hominy grits are examples of soft and bland foods. Consuming them may help ward off some of the problems associated with UC. Eating spicy foods is definitely a no-no for someone with ulcerative colitis.
- Lean meats. Protein is one of the most important nutrients that UC sufferers should have plenty of. Protein helps deal with muscle loss brought about by chronic inflammation of the large intestines. Additionally, protein helps in strengthening the immune system, something necessary for bouncing back from the symptoms and complications of ulcerative colitis. The best sources of protein for UC sufferers include chicken breast, turkey, fish, eggs and lean beef cuts.
- Plain yogurt. The consumption of plain yogurt is highly recommendable for someone afflicted with ulcerative colitis. This food is packed with friendly bacteria that help restore the healthy balance of microorganisms in the digestive tract, as well as promote better digestion. Small amounts of dairy products may be consumed by anyone with UC for as long as they do not cause problems such as diarrhea, excess gas and abdominal pain.
- Lots of water. Drinking plenty of water daily helps in flushing out toxins and waste products along the digestive tract. It’s important for someone with UC to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages such as coffee because they tend to make diarrhea worse. Sodas should be avoided as well because they contribute to excess gas.