Ulcerative Colitis is one of the types of inflammatory bowel disease which affects the lower part of the bowel. It causes inflammation and sores in the bowel which in turn cause symptoms such as pain, diarrhoea and blood in the stool.
As with other types of IBD, Symptoms usually come and go, when they are active it is known as a ‘flare’ of the condition, when the symptoms resolve it is known as a period of ‘remission’.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
The symptoms of Ulcerative colitis can vary between people, and include diarrhoea (or occasionally constipation), fatigue, pain, bloating and blood in the stool. Many other gut conditions can also cause these symptoms, so it is important to see your GP to get an accurate diagnosis and the correct treatment.
Inflammatory bowel disease also sometimes cause symptoms outside of the gut, such as joint pain or swelling, eye problems or skin rashes.
Getting A Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
Your first port of call should be your GP, who will refer you for tests to diagnose which condition you have and ensure that you receive the appropriate treatment. Tests initially will include blood and poo tests. Blood tests can show whether you are anaemic, rule out some other causes for your symptoms (coeliac disease) and show any inflammatory markers. Poo tests will look for a specific substance called faecal calprotectin, this is very specific for inflammation in the gut.
If your GP suspects ulcerative colitis, they will likely refer to you a gastroenterologist, for an endoscopy, which will help to diagnose and give them additional information to help give you the best possible treatment.
Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is usually treated with medications during active flares, these aim to control symptoms, reduce the inflammation and bring about remission. There are many different types of medications that might be used, from anti-inflammatory medicines to steroids and medicines that suppress the immune system. Often maintenance doses of medications are given during remission in order to maintain remission periods for as long as possible.
Diet and Ulcerative Colitis
Most people living with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis are very keen to find out how they can help themselves, and very naturally they will wonder what foods are the best to eat. The best diet to eat can vary, depending on the symptoms, whether the condition is in flare or remission, and the location of inflammation. It is always best to work with a qualified and experienced dietitian, so that you can have a good understanding of how the food you eat affects you as an individual. You may be advised to take different dietary approaches when you are in flare than you do in remission. You will also be given dietary advice to protect you against some of the long term complications of ulcerative colitis, such as osteoporosis.
People with inflammatory bowel conditions can find that they get bowel symptoms such as wind, pain and bloating during periods of remission. These symptoms can often be treated very effectively using a low FODMAP diet.
Dietary Treatment at Stanner Nutrition Clinic
Your dietitian will thoroughly assess your diet, your symptoms and whether you are experiencing any difficulties with fatigue, eating and drinking or if you are losing weight. The dietary advice will be tailored to help you to avoid foods which exacerbate your symptoms and keep you strong and healthy at a time where you will be feeling unwell, making sure that you continue to have a balanced diet containing all the nutrients that you need. You can have ongoing support as you move through the different stages of flare and remission, so that your diet remains appropriate and healthy for each stage.
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