Ulcerative colitis is a fairly common disease, with an incidence of about one person per 600, with equal prevalence in men and women. It typically affects people in the age brackets 15-30 and 50 – 70 years of age. Unlike Crohn’s disease ulcerative does not affect the rest of the digestive tract
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Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease and a chronic disorder in which the mucous membranes lining the colon become inflamed and develop ulcers. It generally starts towards the end of the bowel, in the rectum or sigmoid colon and can then spread partially or completely through the whole large intestine.
The disease is thought to have a genetic basis, but can be triggered by a number of factors which provoke abnormal activation of the immune system.
Symptoms can often occur as flare-ups interspersed with periods of remission.
When ulceration is confined to the end portion of the large intestine, stools may still be normal or hard and dry. However, rectal discharge of mucus, pus or blood may accompany bowel movements or occur in between. Systemic symptoms are mild or absent
As ulceration spread thorough the colon, stools become looser and bowel movement are more frequent. Stools may be watery and consist almost entirely of blood and pus. Severe cramps and bloating are also common.
Usually an attack begins insidiously, with increased urgency to defecate and mild lower abdominal pain. However, some attacks can begin suddenly with violent diarrhoea, high fever and abdominal pain.
Typical presentation includes
- Watery diarrhoea
- Blood, mucus or pus in the stool
- Abdominal cramps
- Pain, spasm, bloating, flatulence
- Weight loss,
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy, malaise
- High fever
- Inflammatory symptoms such as redness or pain in the eyes, skin or joints
Digestive imbalance – There is a myriad of research that shows that different digestive imbalances such as the ability to digest fat and the levels of bacteria and types of bacteria in the gut can all contribute to IBD. In addition your ability to absorb nutrients can have an effect on your immune system which is hugely linked to diseases such as IBD. and many people are now starting to think that Crohn’s disease may develop as a ‘gut’ reaction to imbalances between friendly and detrimental bacteria. Friendly bacteria are very important for ensuring our food is properly digested, that our gut lining is healthy and that pathogens cannot invade. If our numbers of friendly bacteria drop, any of these important roles may be neglected. This makes us more susceptible to leaky gut, inflammatory flare-ups and infection by pathogens that could trigger the disease. Research shows particular types of good bacteria can influence the outcome of the disease in a positive way. Changes in friendly bacteria levels and other important digestive functions can be tested using It is worth having a comprehensive digestive stool test to check how well you are digesting food and absorbing nutrients, the health of the gut wall and the levels of good and bad bacteria that are present. This can be checked with the new GI effects that uses the latest technology to let you know about the state of your digestion. It also uses PCR technology which check the DNA of the good bacteria to see what kind of diversity of bacteria you have. You can buy this test here as well as finding lots more information about it. This particular testis appropriate for those with Crohn’s disease as it also measure inflammatory markers in the gut. Smart Nutrition can then use the results to help optimise your gut flora and minimise inflammation.
Leaky gut – This is also known as intestinal permeability. A normal healthy gut lining allows certain molecules to pass across into the bloodstream such as vitamins, minerals and digested foods. It also acts as a barrier to prevent entry of larger damaging molecules, foreign particles and bacteria. When the intestinal lining is compromised larger particles, such as undigested or partially digested foods, bacteria and viruses can enter into the bloodstream. These then react with the immune system and give rise to an inflammatory response. The presence of leaky gut can be confirmed via a simple Leaky Gut Test. Once identified, leaky gut can be treated with the help of a qualified nutritional therapist
Food allergy or Intolerance – Immune reactions to food particles may play an important role in the development or severity of ulcerative colitis. Food Intolerances often develop when leaky gut is present because food particles, which would normally remain in the digestive tract, can enter the blood stream and interact with the immune system. Thereafter, whenever you eat the food containing the protein you’re are allergic to, your immune system responds by creating antibodies and other chemicals, including histamine, in an effort to expel the “invader” from your body. When histamine is released in the gastrointestinal tract, it can lead to stomach pains, cramps, diarrhoea and inflammation. It is possible to Test for Food Allergies and Intolerances using a simple blood test.
Chronic stress – Stress can lead to both leaky gut and compromised gut flora both of which can exacerbate ulcerative colitis symptoms. Coping with an inflammatory bowel disease is also a stressful experience in itself. If you would like to find out more about your stress levels, consider having An Adrenal Stress Test. This can help pinpoint any imbalances in stress hormones.
Nutrient deficiencies – People with ulcerative colitis may be at risk for developing malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, which makes it more difficult for the body to heal and fight infection. Malnutrition may also cause you to feel more fatigued. Decreased appetite, fear of pain and diarrhoea, dietary restrictions and dehydration from diarrhoea all play a role. A Vitamin and Mineral Screen gives a comprehensive overview of nutrient status and can be used to target individual deficiencies.
Essential fatty acid imbalances -absorption of fats is often compromised in ulcerative colitis sufferers. The most important of these fats are the essential fatty acids which have many functions in the body including building new cells and mediating inflammatory processes. The inflammation responsible for ulcerative colitis symptoms may be significantly reduced by ensuring adequate levels of these vital nutrients. A Fatty Acid Analysis which evaluates the level of red cell membrane fatty acids which are associated with inflammation. Once the levels of the various fatty acids are known, Smart Nutrition could help you re-establish a balance using a combination of diet and supplements
Amino acid deficiency – Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Having low levels of amino acids that help control inflammation and support intestinal health may exacerbate ulcerative colitis symptoms. An Amino Acid Test which measures the levels of all the different amino acids, highlighting any deficiencies. These can then be addressed with the help of a nutritional therapist.
Poor diet – Bad dietary habits are often part of the development of the next attack. Following a low reactive diet with all inflammatory triggers removed can help to prevent or calm an ulcerative colitis flare-up. This is something Smart Nutrition could design for you. Once in remission, they will also be able to help you to gradually reintroduce foods certain foods.