Alternative Treatments for Ulcerative Colitis

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation in the digestive tract oftentimes affecting the rectum and the colon (large intestine).

The following is a list of ulcerative colitis symptoms:

– Weight loss
– Stomach pain and cramping
– Bloody diarrhea
– Difficulty in having a bowel movement despite the urge to do so
– Feeling of urgency
– Rectal bleeding

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can also manifest outside the digestive system and may also include mouth ulcers, lesions, skin rashes, and eye inflammation.

Natural and Alternative Treatments for Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis has no known cure and because Modern medicine has no adequate measure to alleviate its symptoms, more and more sufferers are now turning to natural and alternative treatments for their condition. No scientific studies, however, have so far supported the claim that any treatment can successfully resolve ulcerative colitis. One should keep in mind that alternative treatments should never be used as a substitute for conventional treatment.

A few natural treatments to consider:

1. Diet: A study in Japan analyzed the contribution of dietary factors on the rise of inflammatory bowel disease. This study involved the participation of 111 individuals who were all suffering from ulcerative colitis. They were asked to answer the questions in food questionnaires. The study discovered that the risk of ulcerative colitis increased in people who consumed high amounts of sweets and that vitamin C showed some protective benefits.

Vitamin C-rich foods include spinach, red bell peppers, strawberries, and parsley. The journal Gut published a study in which ulcerative patients in remission were monitored using food questionnaires for a year. They study showed that the consumption of alcohol, protein, and meat, particularly processed and red meat raised the risk of relapse.

These foods are high in sulphate or sulphur compounds and scientists suspect that the high amounts of these two compounds can cause relapse.

For some sufferers, carbohydrates may be the cause of their problem. Elaine Gottschall made the Specific Carbohydrate Diet highly popular after using it to help her daughter successfully recover from ulcerative colitis.

Elaine later authored a book called, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. The book’s premise is that being forms of sugar, carbohydrates is a substance that helps increase the growth of yeast and bacteria in the intestines resulting eventually in yeast or bacterial overgrowth and imbalance in the digestive system. The yeast and bacteria produce acids and toxins that can damage the intestine lining. They also have an adverse effect on the function of digestive enzymes that in turn, affects the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.

2. Acupuncture: In TCM or traditional Chinese medicine, pain is felt when the flow of vital energy is blocked along the energy channels (meridians) of the body. When inserted into the blocked channels, acupuncture needles clear out the blockages helping to restore the smooth flow of energy that in turn, cures the pain.

Scientists believe that acupuncture helps release the body’s own natural painkillers (hormones and neurochemicals) by dispatching signals to the brain that calm the sympathetic nervous system. Some insurance plans offer coverage for acupuncture. This treatment is also tax-deductible (since it’s deemed as a medical expense). One acupuncture treatment may cost as low as $60 and as high as $120. If you suffer from ulcerative colitis and are considering acupuncture, it’s recommended that you initially go for for several weeks of treatment once to thrice a week.

3. Probiotics: Beneficial bacteria that live in the gut is known as probiotics. They are known to help manage ulcerative colitis quite effectively. Probiotics help in improving the gut’s mucus lining, relieve inflammation, and hinder yeast and bacterial overgrowth. Probiotics are one the most highly popular remedies for inflammatory bowel disease due to the fact that they are safe to use and have very little or no adverse side effects at all.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta observed 34 people suffering from mild-to-moderate active ulcerative colitis who did not get well with standard care. The subjects were given a probiotic supplement known as VSL#3 that provided a total of 3.6 trillion bacteria a day for six weeks.

Out of the 34 people, 18 (53%) experienced remission on sigmoidoscopy and another 8 people (24%) showed a favorable response.

Scientists University of Dundee evaluated from the rectal biopsies of healthy control subjects and subjects with active ulcerative colitis.

Results from the biopsies showed significantly less amounts of bifidobacterium, which meant that the probiotic bacteria might have a protective function in the management of the disease. In another research, 18 active ulcerative colitis subjects were given a placebo or a supplement of bifidobacterium for one month. Compared with the placebo group, blood tests, biopsy, and sigmoidoscopy tests in the probiotic group significantly improved.

Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic yeast, was examined in an Italian study. The yeast was previously found to be beneficial in the maintenance of Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel disease. During a mesalazine maintenance treatment (Steroid therapy was unsuitable for these patients), 25 patients suffering from mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis flare-up were treated with a 250 milligram supplement of Saccharomyces boulardii thrice for a month. Seventeen out of the 24 patients who finished the study experienced remission, that endoscopic examination confirmed.

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Certain studies have shown that fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) can lessen inflammation in ulcerative colitis sufferers. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a critical analysis that reviewed controlled trials published from 1966 – 2003. It was found that in at least three studies, omega-3 fatty acids led to a lesser need for corticosteroids. However, researchers concluded that more studies need to be done to validate the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids.

A Cleveland clinic study examined the influence of an elemental diet and fish oil on the intestinal tissues of Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and control patients. The study discovered an extremely significant anti-inflammatory effect in tissues damaged by ulcerative colitis.

The study evaluated the effect of an oral supplement containing antioxidants (selenium, vitamin E & C), soluble fiber and fish oil on drugs and disease activity in 86 adults with mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis. After six months, patients who consumed 18 ounces of the oral supplement experienced a significant rate of reduction of their prednisone dose compared with the group given placebo. Both groups exhibited similar and significant improvement in histological and clinical responses.

Because not all studies led to a beneficial effect more research on omega-3 fatty acids at differing doses is required.