Ulcerative colitis

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Description: this is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the lining of the colon (the large bowel). It causes abdominal pain, distension, flatulence and bloody diarrhoea and can be very debilitating.

What your doctor can do

  • Blood tests, abdominal Xrays and sometimes CT scans, examination of the bowel (colonoscopy)
  • Mild to moderate colitis, sulphasalazine (5 ASA) as a suppository or enema is the initial treatment.   The drug can also be given orally but is less effective, but in resistant cases adding oral treatment to suppositories can help.    Steroid suppositories or foam preparations can be used if 5 ASA are not tolerated.  In patients with severe disease high dose oral steroids are required.  Following recovery or to aid recovery, powerful immunosuppressive drugs like cyclosporine and azathioprine, are often used as is Infliximab.
  • Surgery – removing badly affected segments of bowel.

What you can do

Diet – start by removing any foods which could aggravate the bowel inflammation. This means anything which may bring on an attack. The foods most likely to cause problems include dairy, egg, nuts, tomatoes, corn, wheat. Try to eat gluten free. Some fruits can also cause problems. Stop these and eat a bland diet, and after a while start adding the foods you really miss and see if there is any change.


As with all autoimmune diseases, a positive mental approach is very important and may in itself reduce relapses. Plenty of rest and regular exercise is beneficial. Because it is possible that some foods and toxins can aggravate ulcerative colitis. Some practitioners have some hair analysed for heavy metal toxicity, and teeth should be checked for excess mercury, infected root canals or jaw cavitations.
If there is anything which precedes a relapse such as stress or dietary change, then try to avoid it in future.

Low dose naltrexone – may well help (click here for more details) – and after a discussion with your health provider, should be considered.

Nutritional supplements

  • Probiotics − good bacteria − such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and bulgaricus, allow the bowel to re-colonise with good bacteria, reduce some symptoms and allow many vitamins and other nutrients to be absorbed. Taking a good probiotic on a regular basis is very important for all bowel disorders. .
  • A good multivitamin/multimineral makes sure that bowel tissues and the immune system have all the nutrients and minerals required to function perfectly.
  • Vitamin D – we are only just learning how important Vitamin D is in the treatment of immune diseases. It appears to affect how genes work (switching them on and off as needed). Ulcerative colitis is less common in tropical countries where they get more sunlight and so create more vitamin D. There are small studies which suggest taking supplemental Vitamin D can reduce symptoms. I would recommend taking 5-8,000iu daily.
  • Calcium and magnesium, 800–1,000mg/day. Magnesium has a very calming effect, helps with sleep and enables people to cope better. It can also relax the bowel spasm. Sometimes the calcium or magnesium can aggravate the diarrhoea – if so, lower the dose.
  • Fish oils – these can affect the inflammatory system and have been shown to reduce the colitis symptoms. I would suggest taking 1 – 2 grams daily, but make sure it is a pure preparation that does not contain mercury
  • Grape seed extract (proanthocyanidins) is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent – and some people find that high doses of grape seed extract can help both with the severity and frequency of relapses.
  • Coenzyme Q10 is an anti-inflammatory supplement and also provides additional energy. Dosages of 30–100mg/day may be helpful.
  • Fibre drinks and shakes can help keep the bowel motions softer and comfortable, and help cleanse the bowel.
  • It has been noted that ulcerative colitis can be less severe in cigarette smokers. We would never suggest that people take up smoking, but in some trials, nicotine patches have been shown to reduce the colitis symptoms, and probably should be tried if the colitis is disabling.

The Nutritional supplements I use and recommend to my patients

For my patients with Ulcerative colitis I recommend – USANA – Probiotics, Cellsentials *, Biomega, Vitamin D, Active Calcium plus, Coquinone and fibergy –

Other therapies

There are a number of other therapies which you might like to look at.  They have not been specifically included with this disease because some are a form of treatment which is applicable to most diseases and many focus on the mind, body, spirit, and the universe. These include - acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, homeopathy, naturopathy, prayer, visualisation and some people with this condition might like to look at these topics (I have described them more fully on another page on this website click here .) With my personal experience and reading, I do not think that I can comment of whether one or a number of these might help.    They fit well with most conventional and complementary treatments and I suspect some or even all of them can be extremely powerful - if performed by an experienced practitioner.    My only caveat is that if in the course of one of these therapies, you are given potions or herbs, do check with your health practitioner that they will not interfere with other treatments or drugs you are receiving.

Nutritional supplements

I believe in today's world that nutritional supplements are so necessary as to be an essential component of any form of both prevention and treatment. Not only is today's food lacking in nutrients because of the way it was grown and processed, but also most of us make the wrong choices in diet. It is virtually impossible to obtain optimal levels of most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients although many people try to do so, and even then fresh produce is not available all year round. *There are many quality supplements available on the market, including –Thorne, NFS, Douglas Labs, Xtend Life, True Star Health, USANA, and Metagenics. There are others, but do your due diligence before choosing one. USANA Health Sciences has added a new adjunct to its multivitamin and multi mineral called CellSentials. These are a patented blend of phyto-nutrients which they believe affects cell signaling and growth, and increases the production of preventative antioxidants within the cell. These should add to the value of the multi, so these are the multivitamin/mineral preparation I recommend.