What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a disease that affects the large intestine (the colon) and the rectum. This disease causes inflammation of the colon’s inner lining and the rectal wall, which becomes red, swollen, and ulcerated.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include cramping, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Some people with ulcerative colitis suffer with poor appetite, fatigue, and anemia. Other people also have joint pain, redness, swelling, and liver problems.
Research suggests that ulcerative colitis may be an autoimmune disease. That means the body may be attacking its own healthy organs and tissues. Contrary to popular belief, neither stress nor specific foods actually cause ulcerative colitis.
It’s common to lose weight with ulcerative colitis. Many people with ulcerative colitis have nutrient deficiencies when they’re first diagnosed. Others develop signs of malnutrition, particularly when they’ve had severe bouts of diarrhea for weeks to months and lose essential nutrients. In addition, with inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, your GI tract cannot always absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat. That can leave you feeling weak.
People with ulcerative colitis may also have low levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid. This can lead to other health problems. That’s why it’s important to watch your overall health and see your GI doctor frequently to make sure you stay well. Your doctor will assess your overall health and GI symptoms. Sometimes your doctor may run some lab tests and make diet and lifestyle recommendations, if necessary, as well as check your medications.
Along with eating the right foods for ulcerative colitis, be sure to include adequate nutritional supplements if you’re unable to eat a balanced diet. For example, if you must avoid dairy products because of lactose intolerance, a lactase supplement like Lactaid may help. But, if you still cannot eat dairy products, talk to your doctor about getting adequate calcium through other foods such as vegetables, sardines with bones, or soy foods. Or get your calcium through supplementation with over-the-counter calcium tablets. In addition, ask your doctor if you should take a daily multivitamin and folic acid supplement.
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