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What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body is attacking itself - in this case, the large intestine. Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause long-lasting inflammation and lesions in the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum. Typically ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine including the rectum and anus, and only invades the inner lining of the intestinal lining. It almost always starts at the rectum, extending upwards in a continuous manner throughout the colon and is typically quite painful.
Colitis often causes a poor absorption of water, vitamins and minerals often leading to nutritional deficiencies which result in poor health, loss of appetite, weight loss, and possibly dehydration, anaemia and generalized fatigue. Ulcerative Colitis can also cause inflammation in the eyes, skin and joints.
What are the Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis?
People suffering with ulcerative colitis experience severe and bloody diarrhea, false urges to have a bowel movement, abdominal pain and cramping, sometimes nausea and vomiting, often decreased appetite, weight loss, mild fever, anemia and loss of body fluids.
Often the pain is experienced as a cramping sensation. One of the notorious symptoms of colitis are the “false urges” that arise frequently during the day. This sense of urgency to expel a stool is due to the inflammation in the rectum.
- Frequent, even continuous diarrhoea
- Bloody stool
- Urgent desire to defecate
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- High fever
- Rapid heartbeat
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Joint aches
What is the Difference between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease?
It’s important to understand the difference between ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract, but ulcerative colitis affects only the colon. Additionally, while Crohn’s disease can affect all layers of the bowel wall, ulcerative colitis only affects the lining of the colon. Both diseases can go into periods of remission and are life-long autoimmune conditions.
What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?
The cause is unknown but the most likely theory is that UC is caused by a variety of factors ranging from genetics, faulty immune system reactions, stress, environmental influences, gastrointestinal infection and even diet. For example, some people are genetically at risk for UC (it runs in their family), and an infection or other toxin may stimulate inflammation of the large intestine. In some cases, stressful events or sensitivities to certain foods may trigger symptoms of UC - this process leads to the chronic inflammation that underlies the disease.
Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis
Most gastroenterologists use powerful steroids and other drugs to calm the inflammation which causes the pain and other symptoms.
Naturopathic treatments include food sensitivity testing, possibly testing for bacterial infection or overgrowth, gut healing nutrients and herbs, botanical anti-inflammatories, hydrotherapy, and certainly IV therapy to both address nutrient deficiencies and help heal the bowel lining. When we discover the root cause of irritation and support your body’s innate ability to heal we see ulcerative colitis settle down.
One of the most important places to begin when treating ulcerative colitis is in getting a clear understanding of what is going on in the digestive tract. Current medical diagnostic tests give us a picture of the damage but not of the function that leads to the damage.
Tests helps us get a clear picture of how the digestive tract it functioning. Information can then be gathered regarding enzyme production, gut flora, yeast and microbes.
Some examples of tests Dr. Smith may use:
Dietary and lifestyle adjustments play a crucial role in healing colitis because food is not just fuel, it is literally information. It plays a hugely medicinal OR inflammatory role and has to be addressed both for healing and for remaining in remission.