Natural Remedies for Ulcerative Colitis
There are a number of medical treatments available to manage ulcerative colitis. Modern therapy is targeted at preventing flares and inducing remission (at least temporarily). These medications, however, have serious side effects, especially when taken for long periods. Corticosteroids, for example, can cause a number of cosmetic, psychological, and hormonal problems. Many patients simply cannot tolerate these medications. Children have particular problems with standard medications. When compliance with prescribed medicines is poor, treatment failure is common. 1. 2 Thus, many patients turn to natural remedies for their ulcerative colitis.
Dietary Remedies for Ulcerative Colitis
Some herbal or organic remedies may help promote gut health and prolong the time between remissions (flares).
- Dietary modification includes elimination of food allergens and optimizing living conditions. A relatively high proportion of Europeans (either primary or of European descent) have an allergy to gluten, a substance found in wheat. Anecdotal evidence suggests that gluten may aggravate ulcerative colitis symptoms 3. but this is far from an established link.
- Some have advocated eliminating dairy products and high levels of carbohydrates from the diet. 4
- Low-fat diets seem to be particularly useful in delaying the recurrence of ulcerative colitis. 5 Olive oil, medium-chain triglycerides, omega-3 fatty acids, and fermentable fiber might have a protective effect. 5
- Lifestyle modification includes adopting exercise and regular physical activity, stress-relieving therapies, and quitting smoking. 6
- High fiber intake may be helpful in some patients. Besides improving bowel regularity, it may help in removal of toxins and chemicals from the body.
- High vitamin C intake has a protective effect. Vitamin C–rich foods are associated with a longer remission phase (these include berries, spinach, bell pepper, and parsley). 7
- Similarly, elimination of alcohol, meat, processed foods, and high-carbohydrate foods may decrease the frequency and severity of flares. 8
A few well-known home remedies for the management of ulcerative colitis include:
- Psyllium seed/husk enhance gut motility, alleviate the symptoms of constipation, and improve the elimination of waste.
- Boswellia is a naturally occurring herb obtained from the resin part of tree bark. The primary mode of action of boswellia in the management of ulcerative colitis is inhibition of certain chemical reactions that produce inflammatory mediators. 9
- Bromelain is commercially available in supplemental formulations and includes proteolytic enzymes that alleviate the symptoms and reduce the frequency of flares. 10
- Probiotics introduce healthy gut bacteria to restore and maintain a natural microbial flora in the gut. 11 This may reduce harmful inflammatory responses and maintain remission.
- Turmeric. the spice used in curry, may help patients with ulcerative colitis. Specifically, the curcumin found in turmeric appears to improve the effectiveness of traditional medical therapy. 12
- Gingko biloba has been effective in treating experimental colitis in rodents, 13. 14 but this has not been shown in humans.
Other Management Options for Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis causes a number of effects on the body besides gastrointestinal symptoms. Aside from medications, other interventions and lifestyle
changes can help improve health and quality of life:
- Promptly treat anemia. Iron and folate absorption may be impaired if ulcerative colitis affects large portions of the gut. Moreover, in the case of gut flora imbalance, vitamin B12 deficiency may also develop. This needs to be identified and treated promptly.
- Dietary or nutritional supplements may be needed in growing children or adolescents with ulcerative colitis to maintain optimal growth and sexual development.
- Emotional stress is very strongly associated with ulcerative colitis, and stress-relieving exercises, yoga, and meditation are tremendously helpful in preventing relapse.
- Certain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are very strongly associated with flaring of ulcerative colitis. Consult your physician before using an NSAID if you have ulcerative colitis.
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2. Turner D, Walsh CM, Benchimol EI, et al. Severe paediatric ulcerative colitis: incidence, outcomes and optimal timing for second-line therapy. Gut. Mar 2008;57(3):331-338.
3. Cheng SX, Raizner A, Phatak UP, Cho JH, Pashankar DS. Celiac disease in a child with ulcerative colitis: a possible genetic association. J Clin Gastroenterol. Feb 2013;47(2):127-129.
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8. Magee EA, Richardson CJ, Hughes R, Cummings JH. Contribution of dietary protein to sulfide production in the large intestine: an in vitro and a controlled feeding study in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. Dec 2000;72(6):1488-1494.
9. Ammon HP. Modulation of the immune system by Boswellia serrata extracts and boswellic acids. Phytomedicine. Sep 2010;17(11):862-867.
10. Onken JE, Greer PK, Calingaert B, Hale LP. Bromelain treatment decreases secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by colon biopsies in vitro. Clin Immunol. Mar 2008;126(3):345-352.
11. Sung MK, Park MY. Nutritional modulators of ulcerative colitis: Clinical efficacies and mechanistic view. World J Gastroenterol. Feb 21 2013;19(7):994-1004.
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13. Kotakadi VS, Jin Y, Hofseth AB, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 has anti-inflammatory properties and ameliorates colitis in mice by driving effector T cell apoptosis. Carcinogenesis. Sep 2008;29(9):1799-1806.
14. Zhou YH, Yu JP, Liu YF, et al. Effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on inflammatory mediators (SOD, MDA, TNF-alpha, NF-kappaBp65, IL-6) in TNBS-induced colitis in rats. Mediators Inflamm. 2006;2006(5):92642.