Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that develops when an abnormal immune system reaction causes the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) and rectum to swell and develop open sores (ulcers).
UC may be incurable, but it’s not all bad news: There’s a lot you can do to control the disease and live well. At Texas Digestive Disease Consultants in The Woodlands, Magnolia, and Willis, Texas, board-certified gastroenterologist Ilyas Memon, MD, and our expert team can help you find a treatment approach that eases your UC symptoms and makes flare-ups less likely.
Your large intestine absorbs water and electrolytes and eliminates solid waste. With UC, these basic gastrointestinal tract functions can be chaotic any time inflammation sets in — or, basically, any time the condition flares up. During UC symptom flares, you may experience:
Besides causing frustrating and disruptive symptoms, an irritated and inflamed intestinal tract makes it harder to digest food fully so you can fuel and nourish your body. Over time, this can lead to weight loss, anemia, and other problems.
About half of people with UC experience mild symptoms. But whether they’re mild, moderate, or severe, UC symptoms tend to occur in periods of active disease flare-ups — when symptoms quickly emerge or worsen — followed by disease remission, or stretches without symptoms.
The goal of UC treatment is to help you stay in remission for as long as possible, which can mean not having active symptom flares for years at a time. While you can’t fully prevent colitis flare-ups, you can take important steps to reduce their occurrence and keep the condition in check. We recommend that you:
Taking your colitis medication as prescribed is one of the best things you can do to manage colitis and prevent flares. As a foundational element of UC management, medication has three goals: To induce remission, help prevent flare-ups, and restore a better quality of life.
You may take some medications every day, even if you feel good, and others only when you have a flare-up. Colitis is more likely to flare if you miss a dose or take the wrong dosage of your daily medication. If you take your UC medicines as prescribed and still have issues, Dr. Memon may need to change your dosage or switch you to a different medication.
Everyone has stress, but when trying to keep colitis in remission, it’s more important than ever to identify your stressors and find ways to minimize or eliminate them. Why? Mental and emotional stress cause the release of hormones that prompt a systemic inflammatory response, triggering a colitis flare-up or worsening colitis symptoms.
Many people find that daily exercise and healthy sleep habits go a long way in helping them control stress; talk therapy and relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, guided imagery, and yoga can be helpful, too.
In addition to being a highly effective stress buster, getting an adequate amount of restorative sleep every night helps your body repair, reset, and recharge itself properly. When you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night, your body operates from its preferred baseline — a well-rested place of optimal regulation that makes it easier to control colitis and maintain remission.
Taking steps to improve your sleep hygiene practices — such as making your environment more conducive to restful sleep and going to bed and waking up on a similar schedule every day — can help you establish healthier sleeping patterns.
Regular exercise would be beneficial enough if its only role in UC management was reducing stress and tension, two major instigators of colitis flares. But it can help you sustain longer symptom remission in other ways, too.
Physical activity supports better digestive health by increasing blood flow to the muscles in the digestive system, helping them massage food through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract more efficiently and effectively. Regular exercise may also help change the composition of your gut microbiome for the better, reducing inflammation and making you healthier from the inside out.
Just as diet doesn’t cause colitis, there’s no special diet that can cure the disease. What you choose to eat can, however, play an important role in helping you maintain UC remission and lower your risk of an unexpected symptom flare. Keeping a food journal can help you identify your personal problem foods, or those that seem to set off symptoms.
The first step in creating a UC-control diet that works well for you is eliminating problematic foods, such as greasy foods, high-fiber foods, sugary foods and drinks, carbonated beverages, or alcohol. The next step is working with Dr. Memon to ensure your eating patterns provide all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
If you like the idea of maintaining long-term colitis remission, Dr. Memon and our team can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants in The Woodlands, Magnolia, and Willis, Texas, today.