Ulcerative Colitis & Garlic

Garlic cloves on a wooden cutting board.
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Ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, causes digestive tract disturbance and results in significant damage to your large intestine. The condition is incurable and having the condition for many years can increase the risk of developing colon cancer. Medical treatment aims to reduce inflammation and infection from the disease but an adjunct and alternative approach with garlic may aid in reducing the risk of later cancer development. Before you use garlic as a supplement, consult your physician for safety.


Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

Virus or bacteria that results in digestive tract inflammation or an autoimmune reaction may prompt the development of ulcerative colitis but the exact cause of the condition is unknown. Symptoms range from mild to severe depending on the location of the inflammation. Most experience rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps or pain, diarrhea, fever or weight loss. The disease can be life-threatening in rare cases when the entire colon is inflamed. Treatment initially starts with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the onset and duration of colon inflammation but immune system suppressing medication may also help. However, surgical removal of the colon may occur in life-threatening situations. Dietary and lifestyle changes including elimination of problem foods, lowering fiber intake and stress management are recommended to prevent aggravating the colon.


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Garlic Benefits

Garlic has a wide range of uses in cooking but is also useful for its healing properties to prevent heart disease and high cholesterol and improve immune system functions. According to the National Cancer Institute, garlic shows promise as a potential anti-cancer agent, but research is ongoing. The active ingredient in garlic is allicin, a sulfur compound, with antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are important substances for destroying toxic particles, or free radicals, that damage your cells. Ulcerative colitis can perforate the colon and increases your risk of developing colon cancer. Therefore, daily use of garlic may increase your immune system response to fight off tumorous colon growths. However, consult your physician to determine if adding garlic to your diet is right for your condition.


Garlic and Ulcerative Colitis Research

Garlic research as an anti-cancer agent is ongoing but promising since garlic has shown to effectively boost the immune system in study participants with existing colorectal cancer, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, research of garlic for ulcerative colitis treatment is slim. A 2009 study published in the "Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Science" examined garlic and its potential protective effects against ulcerative colitis. The study focused on the antioxidant properties of garlic and how administration of garlic increased enzyme activity to protect colon cells. However, this is an animal study and results must be replicated to conclusively determine if garlic can offer protective benefit to ulcerative colitis sufferers.



Dietary habits can cause digestive distress and you may have to determine what works best by eliminating certain foods. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America suggests limiting fatty food consumption and dairy, reducing fiber intake and avoiding alcohol or caffeinated beverages. Garlic is considered safe in your diet, but it can have side effects of bloating or stomach upset. Consult your physician to determine a nutrition plan based on your symptoms.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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