Colitis Explained

Christina Dodd 

Colitis is a type of chronic digestive disorder that causes inflammation of the cells lining the colon (large intestine). It is considered to be an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), very similar in nature to another IBD, Crohn’s disease. Colitis is often confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), however it has different causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Symptoms

Generally, colitis is characterized by:

  • Intense pain and tenderness in the abdomen
  • Depression
  • Rapid, unexplained weight loss
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Irregular bowel movements, including diarrhea or constipation
  • Fever
  • Changes in the appearance of the colon when examined by a doctor, including:
  • Swelling, redness, bleeding
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Flatulence, bloating, indigestion
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Cramping and general intestinal discomfort

Tests

Your medical professional should conduct a thorough evaluation of your health, including history, dietary habits, sleep patterns, hormonal status (i.e. menstruation, puberty, pregnancy, menopause), exercise levels, environmental exposures, and exploration of other underlying conditions. A doctor screening for colitis may conduct:

  • An x-ray of the colon
  • Stool samples
  • Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy
  • Blood chemistry analysis

Causes

Colitis may be triggered by poor digestion, autoimmune disorders that cause the body to attack itself, infections, microbes, and certain chemicals, including mediations.

Some researchers and many colitis sufferers believe that food may trigger or worsen their attacks of colitis. The main culprits include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Soft drinks
  • Dairy products
  • Dried fruits, vegetables or legumes
  • Foods high in sulfur or sulfate
  • High fiber foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Meats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Artificial flavorings, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners like sorbitol
  • Raw vegetables
  • Processed foods containing refined sugars or hydrogenated oils
Treatment

The treatment of colitis depends on its causes. For most cases, anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen are often used to reduce inflammation and pain associated with colitis. For cases of colitis sparked by bacterial or viral infection, a course of anti-viral medications or antibiotics may be advised. For cases of colitis presenting severe diarrhea, electrolyte supplementation and anti-diarrhea medications are sometimes prescribed. Occasionally, surgery is required in severe cases involving the removal of the colon through colectomy.

For those who believe their colitis is caused by diet, keeping a food diary to determine and then eliminate problem foods may be helpful.

Some research suggests that the addition of certain elements to your diet may help:

  • Fiber, especially from brassica, which has soluble contents that ease ulcers. Oatmeal may help as well.
  • Fish oils may inhibit inflammation and contribute to increased digestive lubrication.
  • Herbal medications containing sulphydryl or vitamin U.
  • Probiotics
  • Additional water. Water is crucial to lubricating every bodily process, reducing inflammation, and eliminating toxins.

Alternative therapies like yoga, homeopathic treatments, acupuncture, and enemas or colonics are sometimes helpful for colitis. Along with all major dietary changes and herbal supplements, these activities should always be pre-approved by a doctor.