Ulcerative Colitis (UC) & Inflammatory
Bowel Disease (IBD)
What the Research says about its Symptoms,
Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
|| I am 56 years old. I have been put on sedatives
by my father's doctor to prevent a full-blown recurrence of
colitis. As soon as I ate something it seemed to fall right
through my system without being digested. Shortly after that
all that was coming out was a mixture of excrement and blood.
Then it became mostly blood. After sleeping that night, I
awoke in the morning and did not eat breakfast and went immediately
to the hospital. They put me on intravenous fluids and I was
given Jell-O and broth. I was in the hospital for at least
a week or maybe ten days before my release. They gave me a
shot of cortisone before my release and put me on prednisone.
When my heart was beating so fast they couldn't stop the beats
I was taken off the prednisone.
I was in much pain and then they put me on sulfa
drugs and antidepressants and I ended up in hospitals... What
can I do in this situation? I try not to get upset, but lot's
of time I find myself stressed out and unable to handle situations,
most particularly at home.
I just lost an aunt to colon cancer and the death
certificate stated cause of death was septicemia resulting from
pseudomembranous colitis (PMC). I hope to keep healthy as I don't
want to be put on ampicillin and other antibiotics to such an
extent that they would cause me to experience what she did. Do
I and members of my family need to worry about coming down with
this monster of a disease?
Worry? Worry is never good!
But can I reframe your questions- Is it likely you will get
PMC too? If so, what can you do?
As I said in the article on Pseudomembranous
Colitis (PMC), it is an antibiotic-associated diarrheal condition.
As long as you avoid antibiotics or at least take probiotics to
keep your intestinal flora balanced, you should be able to avoid
You can also see an acupuncturist/chinese herbalist to treat
intestinal imbalances. It's a good idea to have a healthcare provider
who can supervise your colonic health- if your physician only
knows drugs, you'll need to find help elsewhere.
Also, it stands to reason that if you can keep your Colitis under
control and your intestine in good health and balance, you will
be less likely to develop more disease there. So let's look at
Colitis... its causes, symptoms, prevention, and how to treat
it with diet and pharmacologic nutrition.
What is IBD?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) generally includes Ulcerative
Colitis (UC), and Crohn's Disease (CD). There is a risk of cancer
associated with UC, but it is not yet clear how or why that happens.
Symptoms of Colitis & Crohn's Disease
IBD symptoms include increased bowel movements, blood loss, abdominal
pain, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
This and other complications can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Crohn's Disease patients usually develop malnutrition slowly,
while Ulcerative Colitis patients can develop deficiencies very
What causes IBD and how can you try to prevent it?
The exact cause of IBD is, as they say, idiopathic (they don't
know). However, genetics, environment, and diet are contributing
factors. What seems to happen is that in genetically susceptible
people, the bowel's immunity over-reacts to bacteria (even the
normal flora - the good bacteria) of the intestine. This is called
auto-immunity; the body attacking itself. The areas of the intestine
that don't move as much are especially vulnerable because they
are more likely to stagnate.
What is Autoimmune Disease and what causes it?
Scientists still aren't quite sure what causes the the body to
mistake its own cells for dangerous invaders. It appears to be
a combination of genetics and environmental influences. Since
we can't change our genes (yet!), we must control what comes into
contact with our immune system. Some researchers speculate that
immune-related gut problems have increased at too high a rate
to be caused by genetics. Environmental influences, they say,
are a much more likely cause.
Environmental influences can be broken down into two categories:
hygiene and nutrition. Probiotics ("beneficial live
microorganism cultures that are characteristic of the healthy,
human gut microflora") have been shown to reinforce the gut's
ability to defend itself properly, alleviate inflammation, normalize
the bowel, and decrease sensitivities.
There is quite a bit of controversy about vaccines and
how they might negatively impact the immune system. I've actually
avoided this topic because it is one of the more emotional and
divisive issues in medicine today
it deserves its own article.
For now, I'll just say: Look into it, and think carefully about
immunizing your children if your family has a history of autoimmune
Can You Prevent IBD?
If someone in your family before you has had colitis or crohn's,
you need to watch out for it yourself, and try to prevent it from
starting up. We don't know for sure how to prevent IBD, but from
what the research says, we can reason that the following tips
- Keep your bowels moving. Avoid constipation. It's best
to do this naturally with proper diet. It's best to prevent
constipation by drinking plenty of fluids (watch out for fluids
loss with caffeine drinks that make you urinate), eating a fiber-rich
diet, and taking fiber supplements. But if you have to use a
Psyllium allergy, stimulants (bisacodyl, senna)
may cause cancer, danthrons can harm liver, and magnesium or
phosphates can cause metabolic disturbances - all should only
be used occasionally.
- Keep your intestinal flora balanced and healthy. "Dysbiosis"
is when there is too much of some intestinal bacteria and not
enough of others. Avoid antibiotics except when absolutely necessary,
since they can throw off the normal balance of intestinal flora.
If you do have to take antibiotics, follow them up with probiotics,
and have your healthcare practitioner monitor your intestinal
health with stool tests (GSDL). Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Diet. Not only might your family give you the genetic
susceptibility to ulcerative colitis or crohn's, but also they
may teach you bad dietary habits. How we eat as children, and
how we are taught to relate to food make for stubborn habits
later in life. We may use certain foods as "comfort foods."
But what if these comfort foods lead to discomfort and life-threatening
illness later on? Examine your eating habits and do everything
you can to improve them.
- Further prevention ideas. You may want to consider
the following advice for active IBD sufferers- some of the dietary
advice and pharmacologic nutrition may help to stop inflammatory
processes in their tracks. Consult your healthcare practitioner
Nutritional Advice for People already diagnosed with IBD
Generally, normal diets are ok, but food intolerances require
- Lactose intolerance- avoid dairy products
- Intestinal stenosis - avoid high fiber diet (corn grains,
seeds, fruits and vegetables)
- Ilial disease or previous resection - eat a low fat diet
- Steatorrhea (fat in the stool) - eat medium chain triglycerides
(coconut oil, palm kernel oil, butter) instead of common fat
- Prevent stone formation - restrict oxalate ingestion
- Find and address micronutrient deficiencies such as iron,
calcium, cobalamine, etc.
- Iron deficient hypochromic microcytic anemia - take iron supplements,
- Crohn's Disease symptomatic patients- multivitamin and mineral
- Prolonged diarrhea zinc deficiency: 20-50mg zinc daily
- Risk of osteoporosis (due to steroid therapy, post-menopause,
long-term bed rest, smoking, family history): daily calcium
1000mg and vit D 400-800 IU
- During very bad episodes, to allow the bowel to rest (to reduce
inflammation and/or before surgery): IV (intravenous) nutrition
- Liquid nutrition is another option, either to fix nutritional
deficits, or as a therapy for active disease. It can be used
as long as there is no intestinal obstruction
Pharmacologic Nutrition (treatment of disease with specific
nutrients) for IBD
To prevent tissue damage, you must get enough
- Vitamins A, C & E, and
- Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA's)
Glutamine supplementation may help, but the research is not yet
conclusive. Short-chain fatty acids (mostly acetate, propionate
and butyrate) come from the interaction of your intestinal friendly
flora and the carbohydrates you eat.
Short Chain Fatty Acids - Intestinal Fuel
SCFA's are the colon cell's main energy source. Butyrate is the
most important one. In Ulcerative Colitis, its use and availability
are impaired. Butyrate has been shown to increase wound healing
and to reduce inflammation in the small intestine. Oral butyrate
is safe and well tolerated. It also may improve the effectiveness
of oral mesalazine. Researchers believe that butyrate induces
enzymes to promote healing of the intestinal lining. An enema
of SCFA's has been shown to help treat Ulcerative Colitis. Another
way to get SCFA's is by eating germinated barley foodstuff (GBF).
Patients with mild to moderate active Ulcerative Colitis experienced
improvement with GBF after 4 weeks. A third option is oral Clostridium
butyricum M588 (CBM588), an enterobacterium that produces butyrate.
CBM588 has helped rats with colitis.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oils) for IBD
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oils) have been shown in IBD patients
to decrease symptoms, need for steroids, and to improve the condition
of the intestinal cells.
Chinese Herbal Remedies
For information about chinese herbs for IBD, read the section
in the PMC article called "The Chinese
Medical Disease: Li Ji."
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