Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are two major groups within the general category known as Irritable Bowel Disease.
See page on Crohn’s Disease.
Crohn’s Disease can be accurately diagnosed with a barium swallow whereas Ulcerative Colitis would be diagnosed with a barium enema.
These tests would allow the clinician to observe the characteristic inflammatory changes in the bowel wall. There are significant changes in the location and how they affect the bowel wall that help differentiate the two. The primary difference is the degree of involvement of the wall of the intestinal tract.
Ulcerative colitis is limited to the mucosa and the submucosa whereas Crohn’s Disease involves the muscular layer and the connective tissue layer below the mucosa. (If no physical inflammatory changes are noted then the diagnosis would more likely to be that of Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Ulcerative colitis can be quite difficult to treat but I have seen considerable relief of symptoms gained by using a combination of diet and herbal remedies. Additional vitamins and minerals are always necessary as absorption by the body is usually poor.
The usual symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis are abdominal cramps with some pain and/or tenderness of the abdomen, often with accompanying diarrhoea and sometimes bloody stools, although in the early stages constipation may be more common, with the urge to defecate but only a scanty bowel movement. As the condition progresses appetite loss, weight loss, fatigue and fever may develop.
I usually recommend that firstly the patient keep to a diet that is smooth (not necessarily bland) – so as to not irritate the inflamed mucosal membranes – high in proteins ( eggs, fish, poultry, organic meats), fibre and essential fatty acids but low in refined foods, sugars, saturated fats and lactose-rich dairy products.
Avoid fruits and veges that contain seeds and remove hard skins. Often the cruciferous veges such as cabbage and cauli. will tend to cause allergic reactions, as can corn, wheat, tomato and some citrus fruits. If in a very severe state try putting steamed veges, brown
rice, etc. through a blender to help ease irritation.
Drink a lot of pure water and avoid coffee and strong tea. Tea contains tannins which can further worsen absorption of nutrients.
Secondly, take food enzymes with every meal. Preferably a product containing protease, amylase, lipase and cellulase. I usually recommend products which are entirely plant derived, contain an effective doseage of digestive enzymes and are extremely well tolerated. (Some of these are ‘Practitioner only products’)
See page on ‘Enzymes – facts’ and go to On-line shop for enzyme products.
This is extremely important as in my view the majority of digestive and related bowel diseases start with poor digestion.
Taking food enzymes greatly improves the digestion of all foods, not only so
that nutrients are better absorbed but also so that undigested foods do not further overload the colon and cause even more imbalance and irritation. It is often this overload of poorly digested foods that are the source of food sensitivities and intestinal imbalances.
Thirdly be sure to take Colloidal minerals daily. This is because mineral absorption will be poor and for any healing to take place it needs to be maintained constantly. I find that Colloidal minerals are particularly well tolerated and absorbed by most people. Small amounts of Spirulina in smoothies is also an excellent idea and adds proteins to the diet.
See page on ‘Minerals – facts’ and ‘Minerals – why we need to Supplement’
Also important are Yoghurt and other Probiotic products. These are great for keeping bowel flora in better condition and should be used as much as possible.
Probiotics that are specifically formulated to help treat bowel inflammation as well as Colostrum products will greatly improve the immune status of the bowel and this in turn will greatly reduce the number of food intolerances that often occur.
See page on Probiotics.
The constant lack of energy can often be aided by supplementing with vitamin B12 and folic acid. These are often at low levels in people with Ulcerative Colitis because of poor absorption, poor bowel flora and in some cases the use of drugs that deplete Folic acid levels. If taking B12 orally be sure to take it on an empty stomach to get maximum absorption.
Next would come the use of herbal remedies. Slippery elm powder is particularly important as it soothes the colon and can help regulate the bowel motions. Marshmallow is also very useful in this context.
Licorice can have a wonderful anti-inflammatory effect on the intestinal wall and small amounts of Aloe Vera juice can help heal ulceration.
Herbs such as Echinacea and Astragalus are very good anti-bacterials and are needed to promote a more normal immune system, but by far the best in this category would be Golden seal which inhibits the growth of many disease causing organisms but should only be used for short periods of time.
Calming herbs are also often put to good use. Chamomile, especially, as it has a great affinity for the bowel, often combined with Marshmallow. At times Kavakava can also help, especially where there is great anxiety, and with some people Valerian is also very effective.
I have found that the bioflavoniod Quercetin is one of the best anti-inflammatory agents to use in cases of Ulcerative Colitis as it not only reduces inflammation but also greatly reduces the effect of allergic reactions.
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Extra essential fatty acids are also important, either as fish oils to supply extra omega 3 and/or as Evening Primrose oil, which also aids anti-inflammatory action.