Ulcerative Colitis (UC), it is estimated more than 1 million Americans currently have UC or Crohn’s disease, the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These conditions, which can be painful and debilitating, cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are very similar — so similar, in fact, that they’re often mistaken for one another. Both inflame the lining of your digestive tract, and both can cause severe bouts of watery diarrhea and abdominal pain. But Crohn’s disease can occur anywhere in your digestive tract, often spreading deep into the layers of affected tissues. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, usually affects only the innermost lining (mucosa) of your large intestine (colon) and rectum.
No one knows exactly what causes IBD / Ulcerative colitis, although your immune response and certain genetic and environmental factors may play a role.
Currently, there’s no known medical cure for either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. But the news is encouraging. Researchers recently identified a gene that, when defective, can trigger Crohn’s disease in some people. This discovery may lead to more effective treatments in the future.
For now, several therapies are available that may dramatically reduce your symptoms and even bring about a long-term remission.
Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms and Signs
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease share many common symptoms. These symptoms, which may develop gradually or come on suddenly, include:
- Chronic diarrhea. Inflammation causes cells in the affected areas of your intestine to secrete large amounts of water and salt. Because normal intestinal absorption is impaired, your colon can’t absorb this excess fluid, and you develop diarrhea. In addition, your intestines may contract more than normal, which can also contribute to loose bowels.
- Ulcerative Colitis & Abdominal pain and cramping. The walls of your intestines may become inflamed and swollen and eventually may thicken with scar tissue. This blocks the movement of waste through your digestive tract and may cause pain, cramping or vomiting.
- Blood in your stool. Food moving through your digestive tract can cause inflamed tissue to bleed. But your intestines may also bleed on their own. You might notice bright red blood in the toilet bowl or darker blood mixed with your stool. You can also have bleeding you don’t see (occult blood).
- Ulcerative Colitis & Fatigue. Excessive blood loss may cause anemia and make you feel extremely tired. If you have Crohn’s disease, inflammation in your small intestine may make it hard for you to absorb enough nutrients to maintain your energy levels.
- Reduced appetite. Sometimes, abdominal pain and cramping and the inflammatory reaction in the wall of your bowel may interfere with your ability or desire to eat.
- Ulcerative Colitis & Weight loss. You’re especially likely to lose weight if your small intestine is inflamed and you’re not able to digest or absorb much ofwhat you eat.
- Fever. This symptom is common in severe cases of IBD.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease also differ in several key respects. Although Crohn’s disease often affects the lower part of the small intestine (ileum) or the colon, it can flare up anywhere in the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. It usually consists of inflammation that may include large ulcers extending deep into the intestinal wall. Inflammation can appear in several places simultaneously, with areas of healthy tissue in between.
If you have ulcerative colitis, you’ll likely have inflammation only in the innermost lining of your colon and rectum. The affected areas will be continuous, with no patches of normal tissue. You may also develop small bleeding ulcers.
Symptoms of UC and crohn’s may range from mild to severe. If you have a mild case of Crohn’s disease, you’ll likely have no more than four diarrhea bowel movements a day, little or no abdominal pain, and be able to maintain a normal weight. But if your case is severe, you may have six or more diarrhea bowel movements a day along with severe abdominal pain, weight loss, fever and other complications.
Symptoms of mild UC include no more than four episodes of diarrhea a day, occasional blood in your stool and few, if any, complications. In more severe cases you may have six or more episodes of diarrhea a day, frequent blood in your stool, fever and other complications.
In general, though, the course of IBD /ulcerative colitis varies greatly. You may remain completely without symptoms after the initial one or two episodes of the UC disease. Or you may have recurrent episodes of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and sometimes fever or bleeding.
No one is quite sure what causes IBD / UC, although there’s a general consensus as to what doesn’t cause it. Researchers no longer believe that stress is the main culprit, although stress can often aggravate symptoms. Instead, current thinking focuses on the following possibilities:
- The Immune system. Some scientists think IBD may be caused by an unknown virus or bacterium. The digestive tract becomes inflamed when the body’s immune system tries to fight off the invading microorganism. It’s also possible that inflammation may stem from the virus or bacterium itself.
- Heredity. Fifteen percent to 20 percent of people with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s have a parent, sibling or child who also has the disease. Scientists are searching for a gene that might make you susceptible to IBD.
- The Environment. Because IBD occurs more often among people living in cities and industrial nations, it’s possible that environmental factors, including a diet high in fat or refined foods, may play a role.
More and more people are interested in nontraditional approaches to healing, especially when standard treatments produce intolerable side effects or aren’t able to provide a cure. To address this growing interest, the National Institutes of Health established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in 1992. The Center’s mission is to explore nontraditional therapies in a scientifically rigorous way. In general, alternative medicine refers to therapies that may be used instead of conventional treatments. Complementary or integrative medicine, on the other hand, usually means therapies used in conjunction with traditional treatments for UC. Complementary therapies may include acupuncture or acupressure, massage, music or art therapy, guided imagery, yoga, tai chi, and hypnosis. These definitions are very fluid, however. Sometimes acupuncture might be used exclusively to treat a colon problem, for instance.
Most alternative and complementary therapies don’t simply address a problem with the body. Instead, they focus on the entire person, body, mind and spirit. As a result, they can be especially effective at reducing stress, alleviating the side effects of conventional treatments and improving quality of life when dealing with UC or any chronic disease.
A study published in the May 1998 issue of American Journal of Gastroenterology reported that 51 percent of people with either Crohn’s disease or UC had used some form of alternative or complementary therapy. Most of these people cited side effects and ineffectiveness of conventional therapies as their primary reason for seeking alternative care. Improving quality of life with UC and being treated as a whole person rather than as a disease were also major motivations.
Below is a text link that provides documentation to what we know to be two safe and very effective alternatives for treating UC.
Click to go to Primal Defense a Natural Alternative.
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