What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a disease that involves chronic inflammation in the colon and rectum. Typically inflammation develops in the rectum first, then spreads to the large colon, although this isn’t always the case. 

When inflammation only involves the rectum, the condition may be referred to as ulcerative proctitis. Although it shares symptoms with Crohn’s disease, another chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive tract, ulcerative colitis does not involve inflammation of the small intestine, stomach or esophagus, as Crohn’s can. 

As the name suggests, people with ulcerative colitis have small ulcers or abscesses in their colon and rectum. Inflammation causes flare-ups that involve bloody stools and diarrhea, followed by remission periods where symptoms seem to disappear. Remission periods may last from weeks to years. 

Surgery to remove the colon and medications, typically taken daily, are conventional medicine’s usual approach to managing ulcerative colitis. Care may also focus on helping individuals who have ulcerative colitis minimize their increased risk for colon cancer. Regular colon screenings aimed at early cancer detection are often advised, too.

Diarrhea and the passage of blood and mucus in stools are two of the most common signs of ulcerative colitis. When a flare-up occurs, symptoms may develop slowly over several weeks or in as little as a few days. Symptom frequency and severity vary among individuals. Many patients describe the first flare-up as the worst. 

Ulcerative colitis can be extremely debilitating, and it may also involve complications that are severe enough to be life threatening. In addition to the increased risk of colon cancer, those who have ulcerative colitis may develop osteoporosis, a perforated colon, toxic megacolon, and blood clots in veins and arteries. Severe dehydration is another potential complication. Patients who have ulcerative colitis may struggle with inflammation in other areas of the body in addition to the gut, including the joints, skin or eyes.

Ulcerative colitis manifests in people differently, as each one is a unique individual. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to management and therapeutic support therefore is not the best option. A variety of imbalances may contribute to the disease and symptoms. Comprehensive testing and evaluation of each patient is a sound approach for understanding exactly what is going on within that individual’s body. 

Extensive testing can also help identify external or environmental factors that may be having an impact on the body’s autoimmune system. Identifying triggers that may contribute to flare-ups and then minimizing or eliminating exposure to them can be a very effective way to reduce inflammation.

A practitioner who is trained in naturopathic medicine will rely on comprehensive testing to evaluate internal as well as external factors and gain as complete a picture as possible of the ulcerative colitis patient’s condition. The focus will be on identifying causes or contributing factors. Then, through safe, non-invasive therapeutic support, healing can be facilitated. The patient begins to feel better as their health condition improves.