Ulcerative colitis is a type of severe inflammatory bowel disease (or IBD) that causes the body to mistakenly attack the tissues of the digestive tract (or large intestine, rectum, and anus) causing chronic tissue damage, painful ulcers, and inflammation. Doctors treating ulcerative colitis may prescribe medications such as steroids, immune-suppressing drugs, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (or NSAIDs) to reduce both symptoms and frequency of flare ups. In severe cases of colitis where patients are non-responsive to drug treatments, doctors may recommend surgery to remove the colon.
However, many patients also use the following lifestyle changes and natural treatments to soothe colitis pain. Just ensure you consult closely with a healthcare professional first:
1. Daily exercise
Doctors will often recommend some type of gentle daily exercise for patients with ulcerative colitis to help reduce extra-intestinal (beyond the intestines) symptoms as well as to improve energy and mood. Colitis flare-ups often cause a combination of fatigue and depression so remaining active can improve energy, mood, immunity, appetite, and sleep, which in turn can help reduce both colitis symptoms and flare ups. Just be sure to consult with your doctor prior to taking up any form of exercise. Gentle activities, like yoga, walking, hiking, cycling, and swimming are wonderful.
A 2012 study conducted by gastroenterologists at The Shanghai Tenth People’s Hospital in Shanghai, China confirmed that supplementing wheatgrass juice, long utilized in alternative treatments for numerous GI conditions, is effective in improving symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Study participants supplemented with 20-milliliter servings of wheat grass juice per day, for a duration of 30 days. Study findings noted a 78% of patients with colitis vs. 30% improvement for those taking the placebo.
3. Aloe vera
Researchers from the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition found that aloe vera was effective in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. During the study, participants took 200-milliliters of aloe vera per day over the course of a 90 day period and found their symptoms significantly improved following the 3-month duration.
4. Fish oils
Supplementation with fish oils and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (i.e., tuna, trout, salmon, and mackerel) are well known to reduce symptoms of several inflammatory conditions, including ulcerative colitis. This is because omega-3 fatty acids block the pro-inflammatory cytokines that, prompt inflammation.
Turmeric is a spice long touted for its natural digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits. Curcumin, the super-plant compound within turmeric, activates the anti-inflammatory properties within the body that trigger inflammation, which is beneficial to encourage longer periods of remission (no symptoms) periods for colitis patients.