George Krucik, MD, MBA
Approximately 500,000 people in the United States suffer from ulcerative colitis. UC is a chronic condition that is categorized as a type of inflammatory bowel disease. There is no known cure for ulcerative colitis. However, medical intervention and lifestyle changes can reduce symptoms and may put the disease into remission. Excessive consumption of alcohol is generally unwise since it may trigger the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the lining of the large intestine accompanied by small lesions that produce pus and bleeding. Ulcerative colitis causes abdominal discomfort, fever and frequent diarrhea, which may result in dehydration. Other symptoms can include fatigue, loss of appetite and weight, anemia and nausea. The inflamed lining of the large intestine may not be able to properly absorb water and nutrients.
Currently, the cause of ulcerative colitis is not known. A family history of inflammatory bowel disease is a risk factor for developing UC, and some genetic abnormalities correlate with the occurrence of ulcerative colitis. The immune system often responds abnormally to intestinal bacteria, but it is not clear if this contributes to UC or is an effect of the disease. Consumption of food or alcohol does not cause ulcerative colitis. However, consuming more than the equivalent of one glass of wine daily significantly increases the chances of a recurrence of symptoms even when the disease is in remission.
Lifestyle and UC
It is possible to mitigate the symptoms of ulcerative colitis with dietary and lifestyle changes. Along with consuming only small amounts of alcohol, reducing caffeine intake is helpful. Caffeine stimulates the intestines and may increase diarrhea, according to an article at MayoClinic.com. Individuals respond differently to various foods, but a diet that is low in fiber and relatively bland is generally advisable. Avoid carbonated beverages and foods that produce a lot of gas, such as beans, broccoli and cabbage. Drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration. Take vitamins and nutritional supplements as well. Stress can make symptoms worse. To reduce stress, the MayoClinic.com article suggests a regular exercise program, biofeedback training, meditation or hypnosis.
Treatment of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis usually includes medications prescribed by your doctor. In some cases, severe symptoms such as excessive bleeding may require hospitalization. In some cases, surgery is necessary. Surgical intervention involves the removal of part or all of the large intestine and the rectum.