Ulcerative Colitis and how best to treat it naturally.

Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the large bowel, it can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea which often leads to mucus or blood in the stool. I know so many people that are suffering from ulcerative colitis all of which have had to go through a variety of treatments, and are now condemned to taking medication for the rest of their lives. Some of the more conventional treatments include steroids, 5-ASAS, Biologics & Immunomodulators. While I'm sure these treatments are very successful, why not combine this with a natural dietary approach to give your body its best chance at healing. Many natural remedies have had huge success in healing colitis, they support and gently bring the bowel back to full health removing the need for medication.

Ulcerative colitis is most common between the ages of 15 and 35 and the following are thought to contribute to the disease:

  • Genetic predisposition - Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), it is 2-4 times more common in white than non-white people and 4 times more common in Jewish people. It is generally thought to 'run in the family', usually someone with ulcerative colitis will have a parent or sibling with IBD or even Crohn's disease.

  • Infectious agents - It's possible that a parasitic infection may trigger symptoms of IBD, yeast and Candida Albicans can perpetuate colitis so this should be tested for at the start of any treatment.

  • Mucin defects - These are glycoproteins or proteins with sugars attached to them. These mucins are thought to be responsible for the sticky elastic characteristic of mucus. In many ulcerative colitis patients it has been reported that they have alterations to mucin composition.

  • Homocysteine - Homocysteine is an amino acid or a chemical the body uses to make protein. Normally B12, Folic acid, B6 breakdown homocysteine and convert it into something else the body can use. In ulcerative colitis patients the absorption of these nutrients can be hindered, increasing homocysteine in the body. The end result of having increased homocysteine levels leads to increased inflammation by increasing oxidative stress in the body.

  • Stress - This is a major contributor to most if not all diseases as it places additional pressure on the central nervous system (CNS), the endocrine system and immune system. Stress increases the production of cytokine interleukin 6 which is a well known inflammatory agent and so further increases the effects of colitis in the bowel.

Most commonly nutritional deficiencies found in ulcerative colitis patients include:

  • Zinc - this has shown to regulate gut permeability in animals

  • Iron - deficiency is very common in patients with IBD

  • Magnesium - this are commonly decreased in patients with IBD

  • B12

  • Folic acid

  • Vitamin D - which supports the immune system. There is a much higher incidence of IBD in the northern hemisphere suggesting a deficiency in vitamin D.

  • Calcium - is at risk due to reduced absorptive surfaces, magnesium and vitamin D deficiency.

  • Potassium - associated with diarrheal diseases

  • Vitamin E - this has been found in 63% of cases with IBD

All of the above can be found in a good multivitamin but it is always recommended to speak to your nutritional therapist with regards to how best to assimilate these nutrients and the best approach to supplementation.

If you want to start treating ulcerative colitis through diet and supplementation yourself consider some of the following. Remove gluten from the diet, gluten has been found to be one of the highest offending foods alongside dairy when it comes to ulcerative colitis. Increasing Omega 3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation, while decreasing omega 6 fatty acids or at least finding a healthy balance between both as most of the foods we eat today are full of Omega 6 and contain very little Omega 3. Also consider eliminating inflammatory foods such as beef, pork, lamb, they are all very high in arachidonic acid which increases inflammation. Remove any foods which cause allergies or intolerances, these should be tested for by your nutritional therapist or general practitioner. Increase oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and avoid carrageenan entirely as this has been found to induce ulcerative colitis so should be avoided completely.

There are many different routes that can be taken in the treatment of this disease. There are a lot of factors to consider that will at least help ease the pain for anyone suffering from this affliction. Add celery juice daily, bananas, papaya, aloe water, coconut water, cucumbers, steamed potatoes or sweet potatoes into your diet. Increase fruit intake in general and reduce fat consumption as this will support your bowel and start getting your liver working efficiently. Slowly start to reduce gluten, eggs, dairy, corn, soy, canola and pork. You might also consider taking antiviral and antibacterial supplements like alcohol free cat's claw, licorice root, licorice tea or lemon balm to give your immune system an extra boost to fight off the pathogens. All of these suggestions are just the start of what could be a great journey to healing and hopefully completely eradicate what I'm sure has been endless suffering.

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