Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 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’s possible to go years without any flare-ups.

When you enter a state of remission, your UC symptoms improve. Remission is usually a sign that your treatment plan is working. It’s likely that you’ll use medication to bring you into a state of remission.

Medications for UC treatment and remission may include:

  • 5-aminosalicylates (5-ASAs), such as mesalamine (Canasa, Lialda, Pentasa) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
  • biologics, such as infliximab (Remicade), golimumab (Simponi), and adalimumab (Humira)
  • corticosteroids
  • immunomodulators

According to recent clinical guidelines, the medications you’re prescribed will depend on factors such as:

  • whether your UC was mild, moderate, or severe
  • whether treatments are needed to induce or to maintain remission
  • how your body has responded, in the past, to UC therapies such as 5-ASA therapy

Continue taking your medication while you’re in remission. Your symptoms may return if you stop. If you do want to stop treatment, discuss it with your doctor beforehand.

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. Get 16 tips for relieving stress here.

Stop smoking

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 also you’ll be able to support one another.

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 toward staying in remission.

Take your medication as prescribed

Some medications may negatively affect your UC medication. This includes vitamins and supplements.

Tell your doctor about 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.

Exercise

Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes five times per week. This a recommendation for physical activity in adults by the American Heart Association (AHA).

Exercise can include anything from climbing stairs to walking briskly around the block.

Maintain a healthy diet

Some foods, such as high-fiber ones, can increase your risk for flare-ups or may be more difficult for you to digest. 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 experience a flare-up, try to write down:

  • what you ate
  • how much medication you took that day
  • other activities that you were involved in

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’ll work for you.

While everyone reacts differently to foods, some foods you may need to avoid or eat in smaller quantities. This includes foods that are:

  • spicy
  • salty
  • fatty
  • greasy
  • made with dairy
  • high in fiber

You may also need to avoid alcohol.

Use a food diary to help you identify your 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 so 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 stay in remission if you follow your treatment plan and let your doctor know about any changes in your health.

Around 1.6 million Americans have some type of IBD. 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:

Tips for staying healthy