It is very common for people to go through some bowel pain or discomfort. In some cases, this could be something as common as a gluten or lactose intolerance to something a bit more concerning, such as inflammatory or irritable bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis, an example of inflammatory bowel disease, presents with classic IBD symptoms of bloody diarrhea and rectal discomfort.
In mild cases of the above-mentioned conditions, the inflammation can be drastically reduced by adding or removing specific foods from one’s diet. Consuming a diet rich in probiotics, such as yogurt, works to greatly control or reduce ulcerative colitis stool symptoms.
What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease, which occurs as a result of inflammation of the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum. Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for the two conditions that arise from inflammation of the gut wall, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. The most common characterization of this disease is bloody diarrhea and abdominal or rectal pain.
While some people can figure out which foods are helping or worsening their state, most may be unable to do so on their own. It is important to share your medical records with a doctor who may be able to assist you in determining the foods that work best for you and the ones that cause inflammation in your rectum.
Types of Ulcerative Colitis
The inflammation in ulcerative colitis begins in the rectum, an area close to the anus, and moves upwards to inflame the colon. In some cases, a portion closest to the rectum is affected, while in others, the entire length of the colon may be inflamed. This branch of inflammatory bowel disease is categorized into different types based on the part of the colon affected by the spreading inflammation.
Inflammation begins in and stays limited to the rectum. In most cases, it does not spread to the colon at all, while in other less occasional cases, it may spread to the lowest part of the colon, the one nearest to the rectum.
Inflammation begins in the rectum and spreads to the entire length of the colon.
Ulcerative Distal Colitis
Inflammation of the rectum and only the left part of the colon. Since the spread of inflammation is limited to one portion of the colon, this is also known as ulcerative limited colitis.
The colon and rectum don’t need to be inflamed to the same degree. In most cases, the amount of inflammation in the rectum (small area close to the anus) is more severe than the inflammation in any or all parts of the colon.
Colitis Infection vs. Ulcerative Colitis
Colitis is a medical term used for an inflamed or irritated colon. Someone with colitis infection has inflammation in their colon due to bacterial or viral infection. On the other hand, ulcerative means anything characterized by an ulcer or ulceration. Hence, ulcerative colitis is rather a product of an ulcer in the gut, than of an infection.
Risk factors of developing ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis affects people of all age groups, showing mild to severe stool ulcerative colitis symptoms in young children as well as adults. However, the following leave you more prone to developing this inflammatory bowel disease.
- Belonging to the Jewish community (genetic risk factor owing to a history of migrations and re-population from small groups of the Jewish population)
- Consuming a diet that is high in fats
- Frequently using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
- Having a family history of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)
- Lying in the age groups of 15-30 years or older than 60
Stool Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms
The severity of inflammation in a person with this disease determines the ulcerative colitis stool symptoms presented. While some patients may present some of these, others present most of them to a great degree. The more the severity of inflammation, the more predominant the persisting symptoms are. Some stool symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Diarrhea, often with blood or pus in the stool
- Rectal bleeding, often when passing stool
- Rectal pain
- Rectal spasm
Other ulcerative colitis symptoms include
- Growth failure in children
- Joint pain
- Skin rashes
- Weight loss
With ulcerative colitis, many people notice flare-ups. They usually occur in a pattern where there comes a period with extreme or active ulcerative colitis and then one of dormancy or remission. During times of high or extreme activity of this inflammatory bowel disease, the ulcerative colitis stool symptoms are recurrent and noticeable. While in periods of dormancy, the person barely presents with any symptoms and may even think they have fully recovered from their condition.
Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
Changes in Lifestyle
The first thing you need to do if you are suffering from a colitis infection or ulcerative colitis is getting rid of unhealthy habits and adopting healthy ones. You do not exactly need to follow a certain diet plan for your remission of ulcerative colitis, but not consuming foods that you think inflame your gut is the first step to adopting a healthy lifestyle.
For some people, keeping a food journal helps. This way, they can keep a track of their meals and figure out what causes them rectal cramps or bloody diarrhea. Skipping fatty and high fiber meals, and replacing them with small, frequent portions of food high in probiotics will greatly reduce inflammation.
People with ulcerative colitis or UC get dehydrated easily as their large intestine does not do the best job at reabsorbing water and nutrients. Set a goal to drink enough water each day so you can go through your day without feeling symptoms of dehydration. Try using an electrolyte replacement or a meal replacement drink to control your stool symptoms of ulcerative colitis immediately.
The key to extended periods of remission is by controlling the stool symptoms of ulcerative colitis. By reducing or completely eradicating inflammation, the possibility of developing ulcers can be greatly reduced. No ulcers mean no bleeding and remission can be successfully achieved. Your doctor is likely to suggest medications such as:
- Antidiarrheal drugs
- Immunosuppressant drugs
- 5-aminosalicylic medications (5-ASA)
In some cases, medications are not enough and hence, the patient is subjected to biological therapy where a major part of their immune system is suppressed.
While stress does not cause ulcerative colitis, reduced stress levels have been reported to improve stool symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Chronic stress is known to trigger a chronic inflammation response by the immune system, which increases ulceration and bloody diarrhea.
When managing stress, it is important to avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol are stimulants, which increase the peristalsis of the gut (rapid intestinal contractions) and make your diarrhea worse. Moreover, they are also capable of worsening one’s already anxious and stressed state of mind.
Make regular exercise a part of your routine. With an average of about 150 minutes of physical activity a week (around 20 minutes a day), you will be able to maintain an emotional balance and relaxed state of mind. In addition to or replacement for exercise, you may also try meditation or yoga to relieve stress.
With our ultimate goal to keep our patients in remission for as long as possible (up to several years), our consultants at Family Medicine Austin cater to all your diagnostic needs. Schedule an appointment with our professional healthcare providers and understand how you can include or omit several foods from your diet to reduce ulcerative colitis flare-ups.