Colitis refers to inflammation of the colon. The disease results from prolonged irritation and inflammation of the delicate membrane which lines the walls of the colon. Chronic ulcerative colitis is a severe prolonged inflammation of the colon or large bowel, in which ulcers form on the walls of the colon.
Symptoms for Colitis
The symptoms of colitis will vary depending on the type of colitis, but the symptoms typically involve abdominal pain and diarrhea of varying severity.
- Because of the inflammation of the colon, the muscle layer suffers intermittent spasms. This results in the cramp like abdominal pain, the main symptom of colitis. This pain may be persistent or sporadic, and is usually felt in the lower abdomen. In most cases of colitis the pain develops in waves, peaking with the onset of diarrhea, after which it begins to wane.
- Diarrhea is another common symptom of colitis, and is also caused by the failure of the colonic muscles to function normally. The spasmodic contractions of the colon cause the contents of the colon to travel a lot more rapidly through, with less time for absorption of fluid. This results in diarrhea.
- The presence of blood in the feces may also be observed. This is because bleeding hemorrhoids can develop as a result of frequent and severe diarrhea. The presence of blood is not normal however, and you should bring it to the attention of your health care provider.
- You may experience a constant sensation of needing to have a bowel movement and this is referred to as Tenesmus.
- Depending on the cause for colitis, you may also experience signs of infection like chills or fever.
Causes of Colitis
It is extremely important to identify the cause of colitis, as treatment requirements will vary for different types of colitis. The most common types of colitis and their causes are as follows:
Colitis can be caused by infections that may be brought on by a virus, bacteria or parasite. Most cases of infectious colitis are caused by food borne illnesses with bacteria like salmonella and e coli being responsible. Infectious colitis in such cases may result in symptoms like bloody diarrhea and it can cause severe dehydration. A parasitic infection with the giardia parasite can be picked up from ingested water, not necessarily swallowed, but also when swimming. This can also cause severe diarrhea. Pseudomembranous colitis is another type of colitis caused by infection, with the bacteria Clostridium difficile, but it is differentiated from other types of infectious colitis because of the manner in which it is brought on. This disorder is typically caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria, resulting from antibiotic medication.
Ischemic colitis is caused due to some other underlying health condition, and for treatment to be effective, the underlying cause needs to be addressed. Ischemic colitis describes a condition of colitis caused by reduced blood flow to the colon. This could occur because of a narrowing of the arteries due to atherosclerosis. The decrease in blood flow to the colon may also occur due to mechanical causes such as incarcerated hernia or volvulus. If there is a risk of low blood flow to the colon, ischemic colitis can develop if there is a drop in blood pressure. In such a scenario, you would probably experience other symptoms as well like anemia, dehydration and shock.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Ulcerative colitis and CrohnВ’s disease are types of inflammatory bowel disease that can cause inflammation of the colon. Ulcerative colitis is a rather severe condition and there is no permanent cure for the condition. It is believed to be an autoimmune disorder, in which the colon is attacked by the immune system. The condition generally originates in the rectum, from where it spreads through the colon. CrohnВ’s disease on the other hand can affect any
part of the digestive tract, right from the esophagus and stomach to the rectum and intestines.
Microscopic colitis includes two diseases; collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis. In both conditions the colon suffers inflammation when the walls of the colon are engorged with collagen or lymphocytes respectively. This is quite a rare type of colitis and is usually only seen in older women. The cause of microscopic colitis is not really understood, but it may be an autoimmune disorder.
Chemical colitis is, as the name suggests, caused from exposure to chemicals. This can occur when an enema is administered and there are harsh chemicals that are released into the colon.
Remedies for Colitis
Home remedies for ulcerative colitis are particularly popular because of the very nature of the condition. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition and there may be no natural cure for colitis, but natural remedies for ulcerative colitis can help to control the condition to some extent. Most natural treatments for colitis help to minimize the severity of symptoms by reducing the colon inflammation. The effectiveness of home remedies can vary greatly however, and the result will also differ from individual to individual. Here are some home remedies that are believed to help with colitis.
According to some individuals, aloe vera gel capsules can exercise an anti-inflammatory effect, and according to some studies although the benefits are uncertain there is little risk of side effects.
A popular herbal remedy for colitis involves the use of Boswellia, as the resin present in the tree bark is thought to act as a blocker for chemical reactions that contribute to inflammation. This herb is popular as a remedy for various inflammatory conditions like arthritis and gout as well. This may be a good alternative for individuals who suffer gut irritation as a side effect from anti-inflammatory medications. The herb can be taken in the supplement form, but you should consult with your doctor for the appropriate dosage.
The pineapple stem, as unassuming as it may be, contains bromelain, which is a mixture of protein digesting enzymes. Some studies suggest that this property may help to reduce and control inflammation.
Diet for Colitis
Colitis treatment with diet modifications will not help to cure colitis, but the foods you consume do have an effect on the frequency and severity of the symptoms. Certain foods may aggravate a flare up of symptoms, while others can help to soothe the symptoms. An ulcerative colitis diet may be particularly helpful because of the chronic nature of the condition and it would be a good idea for you to consult a nutritionist for a specialized diet plan if you suffer from ulcerative colitis.
Some foods that you should be cautious about in general are dairy products, as many individuals do suffer from some degree of lactose intolerance. Some foods that can aggravate symptoms like bloating and gas are broccoli, cabbage, beans, and caffeinated and carbonated drinks. While fiber intake can help with colitis symptoms, in some cases fiber supplements or high fiber foods can actually worsen the symptoms, so it would be best to consult with your doctor and a dietician before making any changes to your diet.
Your digestive systemВ’s ability to absorb nutrients is severely compromised, so you may also require nutritional supplements. The dosage needs to be decided by your doctor. Make it a point to eat smaller and more frequent meals, as no matter how healthy your diet is, the digestive process is severely impaired and it would be best to avoid subjecting it to unnecessary stress.
Suggestion for Colitis
Stress is not regarded as a cause for colitis anymore, but it can aggravate the symptoms and impair your bodyВ’s ability to cope with and recover from the condition. Light exercise and meditative or relaxation techniques can greatly help relieve stress and help improve your condition.