Is Yoga the key to ulcerative colitis relief? Does an herb bring relief? Natural remedies for ulcerative colitis (UC) may not be your main treatment approach, but they can help you manage symptoms and reduce the frequency of flare-ups.
To date, there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease of the colon (colon) in which inflammation caused by a faulty immune response causes sores or ulcers in the lining of the colon.
Ulcerative colitis is one of two main types of ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms occur in the colon and can be severe enough to make even the simplest of daily activities difficult. Ulcerative colitis (UC) is the most common form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) worldwide.
Although natural remedies cannot cure UC, they can help a person relieve symptoms and flare-ups. Symptoms usually include blood or pus in the stool, fever, and loss of appetite, along with anaemia, rapid heart rate, and digestive problems. UC can also affect a person’s self-esteem, relationships, and career.
The most severe forms of UC can cause chronic symptoms, including pain and digestive problems such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and an urgent need to go to the bathroom. People who experience severe episodes of UC can develop dehydration or lose a large amount of blood. Without treatment, these forms of UC can be fatal.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COLITIS AND ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
Colitis means your colon is inflamed or irritated. This can be caused by many things, such as viruses or bacterial infections. Ulcerative colitis is more serious because it is not caused by an infection and is lifelong.
WHO GETS ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
Anyone of any age, including young children, can get ulcerative colitis. Your chance of getting it is slightly higher if you:
- Have a close relative with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Be between 15 and 30 years old or over 60 years old.
- Eat high fat.
- Frequent use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis often worsen over time. First you may notice:
- Diarrhoea or urgent bowel movements
- Abdominal cramps.
- Weight loss
- Anemia (reduced red blood cell count)
Later you may also have:
- Blood, mucus, or pus in the stool.
- Severe cramps
- Sores in the mouth
- Pains in the joints.
- Red and painful eyes
- Liver disease
- Fluid and nutrient loss
Symptoms are similar in paediatric ulcerative colitis and may include delayed or poor growth. Some symptoms of ulcerative colitis in children can resemble other conditions, so it’s important to tell your paediatrician about any symptoms.
HOW IS ULCERATIVE COLITIS DIAGNOSED?
To diagnose ulcerative colitis in children, adolescents and adults, your doctor must rule out other diseases. After a physical exam, your provider may order:
- Blood tests: Your blood may show signs of infection or anaemia. Anaemia is low levels of iron in the blood. It may mean you are bleeding from your colon or rectum. Stool Samples: Signs of infection, parasites (small organisms that can live in a person’s body), and inflammation can show up in your stool.
- Imaging Tests: Your doctor may need an image of your colon and rectum. You may have tests that include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT).
- Endoscopic Tests: An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera inside. Specialized doctors can insert the endoscope through the anus to check the condition of the rectum and colon. Common endoscopic tests include colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy.
Probiotics are live bacteria or microorganisms that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. Some foods, like yogurt, contain natural probiotics. Alternatively, a person can purchase probiotics without a prescription at most major health food stores and pharmacies.
It is important to note that dietary supplements are not drugs and are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This lack of regulation means quality can vary significantly between brands or even product batches. Before purchasing any dietary supplement, a person should check the label to find out what is in it. You can also research the company’s reputation and check its reviews.
People interested in probiotics should talk to a doctor. Health professionals can often recommend reputable supplements. However, a probiotic cannot replace conventional medication. People should continue to take current medications according to their prescriptions.
Studies highlight several natural substances that may reduce UC symptoms, including:
- Andrographis paniculata extract
- Aloe vera gel
- Wheatgrass juice
- Plantago ovata seed
- Boswellia gum serrata
In the review, the authors suggest that certain compounds found in these supplements support immune activity and provide antioxidants that reduce inflammation.
However, the review does not recommend any of these substances as stand-alone treatments. The study authors suggest that people with UC should only use it as an add-on treatment alongside traditional medication.
CAN STRESS CAUSE ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
Your body deals with stressful events by triggering a fight or flight response. This is a natural response to stress, preparing your body to flee a high-risk situation or face a perceived threat.
Several things happen during this reaction:
- Your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol
- Your blood pressure and heart rate increase
- Your body increases the production of adrenaline, which gives you energy
This reaction also stimulates your immune system. This isn’t usually a bad reaction, but it can be a problem if you have ulcerative colitis. A stimulated immune system leads to increased inflammation throughout the body, including the colon. This increase is usually temporary but can still trigger a flare-up of ulcerative colitis. Although stress may be responsible for triggering a flare-up of symptoms, stress is not currently thought to cause ulcerative colitis. Instead, researchers believe stress makes it worse. The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but some people are at increased risk of developing the condition. This includes people under the age of 30 or middle-aged and people with a family history of ulcerative colitis.
MANAGING STRESS AND ULCERATIVE COLITIS
Taking your medication and following your doctor’s treatment plan isn’t always enough to reduce the occurrence of ulcerative colitis. Finding ways to lower your stress levels can also be helpful. Here are some strategies to help you deal with stress:
- Meditate: Try one of the best meditation apps of the year if you’re not sure where to start.
- Do Yoga: All you need is a little space to stretch out. Here is a first sequence. Try biofeedback: You can ask your doctor about biofeedback. This drug-free therapy can teach you how to control your bodily functions. This will teach you how to lower your heart rate and release muscle tension when you are stressed.
- Take Care of Yourself: Self-care is an important factor in reducing stress. Make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Learning to say no can also reduce stress. Taking on too many responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
- Exercise: Exercise causes your brain to release neurotransmitters that affect your mood and help relieve depression and anxiety. Exercise also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Try to get 30 minutes of physical activity at least three to five times a week.
TECHNIQUES TO FOLLOW
1) AVOID FOODS THAT MAY WORSEN SYMPTOMS OF UC
Since a healthy diet is the cornerstone of overall health, it’s not surprising that it tops the list of natural cures for ulcerative colitis. “Diet is a crucial treatment for patients with ulcerative colitis,” he says, adding that the disease often has a dietary component.
According to several studies, people reporting a high-fat diet were more likely to have UC recurrence. Other studies highlighted in the paper suggest avoiding fatty foods, dairy products, caffeine, and raw fruits and vegetables if you have ulcerative colitis. The review notes that there’s no single diet for UC, so you’ll have to find what works best for you through trial and error. It’s helpful to keep a food journal to find out which foods work best for you. Snider says there’s no harm in restricting certain foods and then, if your symptom diary shows your symptoms are improving, continue to do so. He also points out that sugar should be avoided as its effect on the pancreas inhibits the production of anti-inflammatory enzymes.
2) DEEP BREATHING
Deep abdominal breathing is a surprisingly simple and effective way to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. Studies show that slow breathing techniques produce real physiological changes in the body, which in turn are responsible for relaxation and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. In people with ulcerative colitis, deep breathing massages the gastrointestinal tract. This can help with symptoms such as pain, urgency, and constipation. Taking deep breaths during times of CU-related stress can also help calm the body and the body’s fight or flight response.
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic or resting and digestive part of the nervous system. It gets us out of that threat mode that can impair the perception of sensations.”
Focusing your attention on your breathing also helps you relax and manage pain and nausea.
3) EXERCISING REGULARLY TO REDUCE ULCERATIVE COLITIS
Exercise is helpful in managing many complications associated with ulcerative colitis, including decreased bone density, weakened immune systems, emotional health issues, stress, and weight gain.
Try to exercise, like swimming or cycling, three or four days a week. Moderate exercise releases protective myokines like irisin from working skeletal muscle, promoting healing, and helping with inflammation caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Yoga as a natural treatment for ulcerative colitis as it promotes relaxation and targets the digestive system by flooding the area with oxygen and nutrients for healing. Find out what type and frequency of exercise is right for you and take it easy: Too much exercise can lead to mild systemic inflammation.
You probably already know that regular physical activity can help reduce stress, improve mood, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, in part because exercise supports your overall health and releases feel-good endorphins. Even so, “exercise is probably the most underused drug we have for anxiety, depression and stress,” says Lupe.
Exercise produces a cascade of benefits to the body. It can also help maintain a healthy weight and support a healthy immune system. These effects are particularly important for people with UC, as the immune system and gut inflammation are believed to play a central role in promoting UC symptoms and flare-ups.
5) EXPERIMENT WITH HERBAL REMEDIES FOR ULCERATIVE COLITIS
Many herbs can be helpful in fighting inflammation and relieving symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Snider recommends Boswellia serrata, curcumin (found in turmeric, used in Indian cooking) and Withania somnifera, also known as Ashwagandha; all three have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and help the body fight stress. Chamomile and flea seeds can also help.
Mindfulness-based meditation helps you focus on what is happening in the present moment and accept your feelings and sensations without judgement.
If you’re struggling to manage stress, you may want to try Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR), which includes group sessions and home exercises that teach you how to increase mindfulness and reduce stress through yoga and meditation. You can also practice mindfulness along with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a licensed psychologist.
Meditation isn’t about “turning off” the mind, says Lupe. “With meditation, you see your thoughts, sensations, and emotions and don’t react to them. On isn’t about “turning off” the mind, says Lupe. “With meditation, you see your thoughts, sensations, and emotions and don’t react to them.
7) KEEP A JOURNAL
You may already be keeping a journal to track your symptoms and diet. Writing down your emotions and thoughts—that is, journaling in the more traditional sense—can also help improve your mental health. Keeping a journal, especially if you work with a mental health professional, can help you identify negative thoughts and behaviours, recognize your triggers, and prioritize your concerns for solutions.
A person can relieve their symptoms by using some natural remedies along with conventional treatments. Changing your diet, taking probiotics, and regular exercise can often help.
However, a person should always take medication as directed by their doctor. If a person experiences unwanted side effects from medications, they should talk to their doctor about their symptoms.
Surgery is an option when medications aren’t working or if you have complications like bleeding or abnormal growths. They can develop precancerous lesions, or growths, that can turn into colon cancer. A doctor can remove these lesions through surgery (colectomy) or during a colonoscopy.