A number of medical treatments are available to manage ulcerative colitis (UC). The goal of modern therapy is to prevent flares and extend the time between flares (remission), at least temporarily. But these medications can have serious side effects, especially when taken for long periods of time. For example, corticosteroids can cause a number of cosmetic, psychological, and hormonal problems.
Many people simply cannot tolerate these medications. Children in particular may have problems with standard medications. When compliance with prescribed medicines is poor, treatment failure is common. For this reason, many people turn to natural remedies to manage their UC.
Dietary remedies for ulcerative colitis
Some herbal or organic remedies may help promote gut health and prolong remission.
You can modify your diet by eliminating food allergens and optimizing living conditions. A relatively high proportion of people of European descent are allergic to gluten, a substance found in wheat. Anecdotal evidence suggests that gluten may aggravate UC symptoms, but this is far from an established link.
Eliminating these foods and beverages may also decrease the frequency and severity of flares:
- processed foods
- high-carbohydrate foods
- sugar alcohols
Low-fat diets seem to be particularly useful in delaying the recurrence of UC. Olive oil, medium-chain triglycerides, omega-3 fatty acids, and certain types of fiber might have a beneficial effect. High fiber intake may be helpful in some people. In addition to improving bowel regularity, it may improve the consistency of the stool.
High vitamin C intake may have a protective effect, and vitamin C-rich foods may be associated with a longer remission phase. Some of these foods include:
- bell pepper
Herbal remedies for ulcerative colitis
A few familiar herbal remedies may be effective in the management of UC.
Psyllium seed/husk enhances gut motility, alleviates the symptoms of constipation, and improves the elimination of waste.
Boswellia is a naturally occurring herb obtained from the resin part of tree bark. Its primary effect on UC appears to be inhibiting certain chemical reactions that produce inflammatory mediators.
Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, may help ease the symptoms and reduce the frequency of flares. It’s proteolytic, which means that it helps break down proteins. This process appears to provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Bromelain is commercially available as a supplement.
Probiotics introduce healthy gut bacteria to restore and maintain a natural microbial flora in the gut. This may reduce harmful inflammatory responses and maintain remission.
Turmeric, the Indian spice used in curry, may help people with UC. Specifically, the curcumin found in turmeric is an antioxidant and appears to decrease inflammation while improving the effectiveness of traditional medical therapy.
Gingko has been effective in treating experimental colitis in rodents.
Other management options for ulcerative colitis
UC leads to several symptoms, not just gastrointestinal ones. Aside from medications, other interventions and lifestyle changes can help improve health and quality of life.
- Promptly treat anemia. Low levels of iron, folate, and B-12 can all cause anemia. Low iron levels can develop with bleeding. Some medications can interfere with folate absorption. While vitamin B-12 deficiency may also develop. UC flares can make it difficult to get the full nutrition you need. So the cause of anemia always needs to be identified and treated promptly.
- Consider supplements. Growing children or adolescents may need dietary or nutritional supplements to maintain optimal growth and sexual development.
- Manage your stress. Emotional stress is very strongly associated with UC. Prevent relapses with the help of stress-relieving exercises or therapies, yoga, and meditation.
- Practice a healthier lifestyle. Adding exercise and regular physical activity can help with UC. So can quitting smoking.
- Review your drug regimen. Certain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be associated with UC flares. If you have UC, consult your physician before using an NSAID.