Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease. It causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract. People with UC will experience flare-ups, where the symptoms of the condition become worse, and periods of remission, which are times when the symptoms go away. The goal of treatment is remission and an improved quality of life. It’ possible to go years without any flare-ups.
When UC enters a state of remission, your symptoms improve. Remission is usually a sign that your treatment plan is working. It’s likely that you’ll use medication to bring your condition into a state of remission. Medications may include:
- aminosalicylates, such as sulfasalazine (Azulfidine) or mesalamine (Canasa, Lialda, Pentasa)
- biologics, such as infliximab (Remicade), golimumab (Simponi), and adalimumab (Humira)
- Adalimumab, which is an injectable drug that blocks inflammatory effects
You should continue taking your medication while your condition is in remission. Your symptoms may return if you stop taking your medication. If you do want to stop treatment, you should discuss it with your doctor before you do.
Lifestyle changes, such as the following are also an important part of your continued treatment plan:
Manage your stress
Some stress is unavoidable, but try to avoid stressful situations when you can. Ask for more help around the house, and don’t take on more than you can manage. Try to create a lifestyle with as little stress as possible.
Smoking can lead to flare-ups. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs. If other people in your household smoke, plan to quit smoking together. Not only will this eliminate the temptation to have a cigarette, but you’ll be able to support one another.
Find other activities
Find other things to do during the time when you’d normally smoke. Take a 10-minute walk around the block, or try chewing gum or sucking on mints. Quitting smoking will take work and commitment, but it’s an important step towards staying in remission.
Take your medication as prescribed
Some medications may negatively impact your UC medication. This includes vitamins and supplements. Tell your doctor everything you’re taking, and ask about any food interactions that might make your medicine less effective.
Get regular checkups
Your doctor will likely recommend regular checkups. Stick with the schedule. If you suspect a flare-up or if you start experiencing any side effects from your medication, contact your doctor.
You should exercise for at least 30 minutes five times per week. This follows the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity in adults. Exercise can include anything from climbing stairs to walking briskly around the block.
Maintain a healthy diet
Some foods can increase your risk for flare-ups or may be more difficult for you to digest, such as high- fiber foods. Ask your doctor about foods you should avoid and foods you may want to include in your diet.
Keep a diary of flare-ups
When you do experience a flare-up, write down what you ate, how much medication you took that day, and other activities in which you were involved. This will help your doctor adjust your medication dosage.
Diet can play a role in UC flare-ups, but a universal diet to help prevent these flare-ups doesn’t exist. Instead, you’ll need to work with your gastroenterologist and possibly a nutritionist to create a diet plan that will work for you. While everyone reacts differently to foods, some foods you may need to avoid or eat in smaller quantities include foods that are:
You may also need to avoid alcohol.
Keep a food diary to help identify trigger foods. You may also want to eat smaller meals throughout the day to avoid extra discomfort from inflammation.
Speak with your gastroenterologist if you feel any flare-ups returning, and you can work on a diet adjustment together.
You can still live a healthy life if you have UC. You can continue to eat delicious foods and your UC can stay in remission if you follow your treatment plan and let your doctor know about any changes in your health.
Approximately 1.6 million Americans have some type of inflammatory bowel disease. A number of online or in-person support groups are available. You can join one or more of them to find additional support for managing your condition.
UC isn’t curable, but you can do things to help keep your condition in remission. Follow these tips:
- Go to your doctor for regular check-ups.
- Keep a regular food diary. This will make it easier to identify possible causes of a flare-up.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try to take eliminate or reduce stress.
- If you smoke, work with your doctor or join a support group to help you stop smoking.
- Follow your treatment plan, and take all of your medications as prescribed.