YOUNG ADULT PROBLEMS: ULCERATIVE COLITIS

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory condition of the large intestine (colon) that presents with sharp abdominal pains as well as cramps, diarrhoea, flatulence often associated with bloating, weight loss, symptoms of malabsorption and very often with blood in the stool or diarrhoea. Small cuts (fissures) are often found around the anus.

This can be an inherited tendency, although the hypothesis of the cause varies: food allergy, infection, autoimmune attack (when the body’s immune system attacks itself), poor digestive enzymes, low levels of hydrochloric acid and psychological stress including anger, sadness and grief.

Diagnosis is made by barium meal or enema, X-rays and colonoscopy.

Ulcerative colitis and its small intestinal colleague, Crohn’s disease, can spread through the bowel very rapidly. Do not underestimate these conditions. Full orthodox investigation and, in the first case, steroid treatment are often recommended to settle the acute situation before alternative therapies are employed. Do not stop orthodox treatment until resolution has occurred. Failure to control the inflammation can lead to surgical removal of the colon and/or other affected parts of the intestine in Crohn’s disease.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Any persisting bowel problem or show of blood from the bowels should be investigated by your GP with referral to a bowel specialist if required.

Follow through with the orthodox treatment initially and then contact your complementary medical specialist. Self-help is not recommended but the following points should be brought up and discussed with your healthcare professional. ‘ During an acute episode avoid raw or rough foods, preferably having soups and other easily digestible foods. Chew well. • There is evidence that the following foods may be involved in inflammatory bowel conditions and they should be avoided, particularly when an attack is bad: refined sugars (white sugar), alcohol, caffeine, cow’s milk products and any foods known not to be tolerated or to which you are allergic. > Have a food allergy test.

A placebo study showed conclusively that many sufferers responded favourably to stress management. Relaxation, meditation techniques and gentle exercise are all mandatory in cases of colitis or Crohn’s disease.

Ensure supplementation with zinc, magnesium, and vitamin C. During acute phases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease malabsorption is common and therefore high levels of multimineral/vitamins, trace elements and protein supplements are all recommended. The amounts should be dictated by a nutritional or complementary therapist.

Flaxseed, slippery elm and chamomile are all soothing.

Deglycyrrhizinated liquorice root and bioflavanoids such as quercetin may have healing properties.

Colonic enemas in the hands of specialists can be relieving in acute phases and beneficial in long-term care (not necessarily suitable in Crohn’s disease).

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