Ulcerative Colitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
37-year-old Nitasha has been suffering from a congenital ulcerative colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease ) which not only drained her energy but also threatened her life. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long lasting inflammation and ulcers affecting the inner lining of large intestine (colon ) and rectum. In her words “My ulcerative colitis is combined with haemorrhoids which made it worse. After every meal, I used to spend hours in the washroom with an upset stomach, Passing stool at least 8 to 10 times a day. Each time I lost more nutrients, more blood which once dropped my haemoglobin to 5 (g/dl) and I actually thought these are my last few days of existence. But I survived. The condition left me in an energy-less vegetative state,” she says.
She goes on to explain, “I wasn’t sure what was causing this, so I completely avoided food from outside, which in turn disrupted my social life. I couldn’t meet up with people so it led to prolonged depression in my life. I went to numerous doctors and dieticians and none of them could give me an appropriate solution. They were encouraging me to continue eating the diet and put me on a plethora of medication which was further worsening my condition.”
Nitasha then thought of consulting me. I knew that I had to reach the root cause of the symptoms, understand her condition. It was important to find out what was aggravating her problem. When Nitasha came to me, I realised that her illness is terminal which cannot be cured completely. However, her life could be redeemed with dietary alterations. These dietary alterations were not simple to follow initially but with regular diet changes, close monitoring and counselling sessions, she has won over her chronic ulcerative colitis symptoms.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis symptoms can vary depending on the severity of inflammation. It may include:
– Diarrhoea, often with blood
– Abdominal pain and cramping
– Rectal pain
– Rectal bleeding
– Inability to dedicate despite urgency
– Fatigue and anaemia and due to blood loss
Another type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is Crohn’s disease which is also an inflammation that can appear anywhere in the digestive tract from mouth to anus. It usually affects all the layers of bowel walls.
Some tips to avoid the symptoms of IBDs
Avoid taking excess stress along with:
– Corn/ Popcorn
– Milk and milk products
– Whole grain cereals like wheat, oats, millets
– High fibre fruits
– High fibre vegetables
There is a strong connection between stress and ulcerative colitis. Being exposed stress and anxiety will cause a fivefold increase in the symptoms. Stress or anxiety increases the permeability of the intestine causing symptoms like leaky bowel. Try different tools to calm yourself by deep breathing, yoga, stretching and good sleep.
I have encountered many cases where the person is suffering and is unaware that the dietary and lifestyle alterations that can help them overcome the struggles of living with a chronic illness. It is important to break the mould of cynical thoughts and seek medical intervention at every stage of chronic illness.
(Monisha Ashokan is a clinical nutritionist at Nourish Me, Delhi)