You can use enemas to help reduce inflammation from ulcerative colitis. Doctors may also suggest natural ingredients to include in these enemas.

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Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) typically associated with abdominal pain and bowel issues. For the approximately 600,000 to 900,000 people in the United States living with UC, symptoms can range from mild to severe.

People with UC may use enemas to help relieve symptoms.

This article provides more information about how enemas can help UC, as well as other medications and ingredients that may be beneficial to consider.

Enemas are a potentially helpful form of treatment for UC because they can reduce inflammation. Enemas can also help prepare your body for diagnostic testing by allowing doctors to see on X-rays where any inflammation is located.

Types of enemas for ulcerative colitis

Enemas that may be useful in treating UC include:

  • Barium enema: This type of enema can be used as a diagnostic tool to detect inflammation in the bowels on X-rays.
  • Mesalamine enema: An anti-inflammatory medication, mesalamine can reduce swelling and help with healing.
  • Budesonide rectal foam enema: A type of corticosteroid, this type of enema can help reduce bowel inflammation.

Both mesalamine and budesonide can be given in other forms when an enema is not the best option.

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Prednisolone belongs to a class of drugs called glucocorticoids. They can reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the colon.

Reducing inflammation can help decrease UC symptoms, so some people do find relief from UC pain with prednisolone.

However, there is currently no cure for UC aside from removing the colon during a surgical procedure. That means the effectiveness of prednisolone will vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and other conditions you may have.

If you have UC, your doctor can work with you to determine whether it makes sense to have prednisolone in your treatment plan.

If you prefer to try a more natural treatment, natural enema types include:

  • Coconut oil: Research has shown that coconut oil may improve symptoms of colitis, but it’s important to talk with your doctor before using an enema with coconut oil to make sure it’s safe for you.
  • Apple cider vinegar: The potential healing properties of apple cider vinegar may be beneficial in helping reduce UC symptoms, but more research is needed.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD): CBD oil may be able to help reduce inflammation, but more research is still needed.
  • Fish oil: Older case studies have indicated that the fatty acids in fish oils may help improve UC symptoms.

It may not seem as natural as some of these other options, but your doctor may suggest a hydrocortisone enema to activate natural substances in the skin that can reduce itching, redness, and inflammation. This medication can also be administered as a rectal suppository.

Adverse effects from enemas are not reported frequently, but they can happen.

According to a 2020 study, enema-related complications can include bowel perforation and ischemic colitis (IC).

However, IC is not the same as UC. The exact cause of UC still remains largely unknown, and no current studies have shown that using enemas causes UC.

Always check with your doctor or pharmacist about the best dosage and timing of medications. Follow any specific directions they give you about enemas.

As a general rule, hold your position for about 30 minutes after taking a mesalamine enema to allow it to spread through the intestines. Then, try to keep the medication inside your body for 8 hours, like while sleeping.

Enemas can help treat a UC flare-up or be a diagnostic tool. Talk with your doctor before performing an enema. They can offer guidance on which enema types might be most effective and how to avoid potential risks.

If you prefer not to use enemas or your doctor advises against using them, many of the medications in enemas to help people with UC are available in other forms, like pills, shots, or rectal suppositories.