Ulcerative Colitis is classified as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) similar to Crohn’s disease. It is an auto/immune disorder that causes inflammation and bleeding in the colon.
Ulcerativecolitis is most commonly diagnosed via colonoscopy. A sample from the inner lining of the colon can be tested along with blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. Most often, patients will notice blood in their stools, frequent or continuous diarrhea, and frequent bowel movements, sometimes up to 15-20 times per day. Colitis symptoms are worsened by laxatives, dairy products, and other diuretics.
There are many different treatments for UlcerativeColitis. The three most common treatments will be described in full:
5 ASA drugs: Lialda, Asacol, Apriso – these drugs are all forms of mesalamine. Mesalamine does not treat the cause of Ulcerative Colitis, only the symptoms. It reduces the inflammationof the inner lining of the colon in turn stopping bleeding and inducing regularity. These drugs are often used with prednisone (a catabolic steroid with many negative side-effects). Prednisone is an anti-inflammatory that also suppresses the immune system slightly. It works wonders for colitis, but long periods of consumption can result in bone loss and other conditions.
Mercaptopurine drugs: Azothioprine, 6 MP drugs treat the cause of colitis. This class of drugs is an immuno-modulator. Instead of weakening or suppressing the immune system, they just stop certain immune cells from dividing and attacking the colon. 6MP drugs have been used for decades and are known to be safe, but some side effects may still occur. Since the immune system is being affected, infection may occur more frequently. Blood should be tested every few months. 6MP drugs are also commonly used with prednisone. Often, a course of prednisone will be prescribed at the start of the 6MP and will ramped down as the 6MP kicks in.
Remicade: Remicade is an immuno-suppressor. It suppresses the immune system so that the enzymes and antibodies in the colon do not interfere with regular functioning. It changes the way that certain immune cells communicate with each other, therefore stopping them from affecting the colon. Remicade has not been used for very many years, but has had remarkable success. Remicade, unlike 5 ASA and 6MP drugs, is not taken orally but through bimonthly infusions. Remicade is made from proteins taken from mice. Another drug, called Humira, is made from human proteins, but has not yet passed through testing by the Food and Drug Administration.
Ulcerative Colitis can have complications, most commonly colon cancer. Certain natural supplements have been said to help prevent this and help colitis symptoms.
Fish Oils – these come in rather large pills and are exactly what they say. Natural fish oils are high in omega-3 fatty acids that aid regular colon functioning. Fish oils can be taken with all of the above drugs unless directed otherwise by your doctor.
Slippery Elm – Slippery elm is another natural supplement made from elm bark. It also comes in capsules and is said to reduce swelling and soothe the colon.
Lastly, dietary changes can make the difference when dealing with colitis. Dairy products (milk, yogurt, ice cream, etc) can induce diarrhea and worsen symptoms or start a flare-up. Until you know if you can handle dairy or not, use minimally.