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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 can’t tolerate these medications. Children in particular may have problems with standard medications.

Because of the adverse side effects that commonly come with the use of traditional ulcerative colitis medications, many people turn to alternative therapies and natural remedies to manage their UC.

Dietary changes may help some people with UC. For example, a relatively high proportion of people of European descent are allergic or sensitive to gluten, a substance found in wheat.

Some evidence suggests that people with UC are more likely to have celiac disease or be intolerant to gluten. However, more research in this area is needed.

Eliminating these foods and beverages may also decrease the frequency and severity of flares:

  • alcohol
  • dairy
  • meat
  • processed foods
  • high-carbohydrate foods
  • sugar alcohols

Lower-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 also 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:

  • berries
  • spinach
  • bell pepper
  • parsley

Some herbal or organic remedies may help promote gut health and prolong remission. A few familiar supplements and herbal remedies may be effective in the management of UC.

Probiotics

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.

Ginseng

Although there is a lack of human research studying how ginseng affects UC, some animal studies have shown that ginseng may be effective in the treatment of UC by reducing inflammation and protecting against cellular damage.

Psyllium seed/husk

Psyllium seed/husk enhances gut motility, alleviates the symptoms of constipation, and improves the elimination of waste.

Boswellia

Some evidence suggests that resin obtained from Boswellia plants may help reduce inflammation, which could be helpful for those with UC.

Bromelain

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, may help ease UC symptoms and reduce the frequency of flares. It’s proteolytic, which means that it helps break down proteins.

Bromelain has been shown to decrease intestinal inflammation and enhance intestinal cell function, which may help reduce UC symptoms.

Turmeric

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 biloba

Gingko has been effective in treating experimental colitis in rodents.

UC leads to several symptoms, not just gastrointestinal ones. Aside from medications, other interventions and lifestyle changes, such as the following, can help improve health and quality of life.

  • Promptly treat anemia. Low levels of iron, folate, and vitamin B-12 can all cause anemia. Low iron levels can develop with bleeding. Some medications can interfere with folate absorption. 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.
  • Manage stress. Emotional stress is very strongly associated with UC. Prevent relapses with the help of stress-relieving exercises or therapies, yoga, and meditation.
  • Get some exercise and stop smoking. 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 doctor before using an NSAID.

Taking natural remedies along with conventional treatments may help further eliminate symptoms of UC better than just conventional treatments alone.

However, before starting any alternative treatments, you should talk to your doctor about which remedies might be best for you. They can help guide you to finding the best treatments for you.

Read this article in Spanish.