Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease causing inflammation of the colon and rectum. It is considered an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues, causing it to become inflamed.
The exact cause of this chronic condition is still not known. It is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the problem. Stress tends to make the symptoms worse.
Ulcerative colitis gives rise to symptoms such as abdominal pain or discomfort, diarrhea, rectal bleeding and production of pus due to the sores or ulcers in the inner lining of the large intestine. The symptoms usually come and go, but five to 10 percent of people suffering from this disease have symptoms all the time.
Though there is no known cure for this condition, you can try some natural and easy home remedies to get relief from the debilitating symptoms.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for ulcerative colitis.
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the most effective home remedies for mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. It is rich in monounsaturated fats and has immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests that olive oil may also protect against this problem.
Simply consume two or three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil daily.
2. Aloe Vera
Studies have found that aloe vera can help treat mild to moderate ulcerative colitis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Consume two ounces (one-quarter cup) of aloe vera gel six to eight times daily when you experience flare-ups.
- Alternatively, drink two tablespoons of fresh aloe vera juice, followed by a glass of water, two or three times a day for several weeks.
You can also add a little turmeric powder to the aloe vera juice or gel. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin that works as a potent anti-inflammatory agent.
3. Wheat Grass Juice
Wheat grass juice has been found to be beneficial for those suffering from ulcerative colitis due to its antioxidant properties. It can reduce abdominal pain, diarrhea and rectal bleeding caused by this chronic condition.
You can start by drinking about four teaspoons of wheat grass juice daily, and gradually increase the dosage to up to 3.5 ounces per day.
4. Fish Oil
The omega-3 fatty acid content and anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil help relieve the symptoms of active ulcerative colitis. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation.
Researchers at the Boston University Medical Center suggest that patients suffering from gastrointestinal disorders tend to have abnormal essential fatty acid profiles.
As a remedy for ulcerative colitis, start by taking one gram of fish oil supplement daily and gradually increase the dosage to two to four grams.
5. Slippery Elm
Slippery elm provides relief from inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis as it forms a gel coating on the bowel lining due to its mucilage content. Moreover, it adds bulk to the stool to reduce diarrhea.
- Add one tablespoon of powdered slippery elm bark to one cup of hot water and let it steep for a few minutes. Drink it twice daily.
- You can also mix one teaspoon each of slippery elm and sugar in two cups of hot water to make a gruel. Consume it twice daily.
6. Psyllium Seeds
Being rich in soluble fiber, psyllium husk works as a bulk-forming agent and improves gut mobility, thereby relieving mild to moderate diarrhea caused by ulcerative colitis.
Add one-half to two teaspoons of ground psyllium seeds to one cup of warm water and drink it before it becomes too thick. Do this once daily until your condition improves.
Those who are not accustomed to this remedy should begin with one-half teaspoon and gradually increase the dosage. When using this remedy, drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent constipation.
Note: Before beginning this remedy, consult your doctor as it may worsen symptoms in some cases. Do not take psyllium if you have bowel obstructions or spasms.
Calendula is a soothing and anti-inflammatory herb that helps manage symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Also, it improves digestion and facilitates tissue healing.
- Put one or two teaspoons of calendula flowers in one cup of hot water.
- Allow it to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Strain and drink the tea two or three times a day.
Fenugreek, also called methi, can help reduce the symptoms of ulcerative colitis by forming a protective coating along the digestive tract. In addition, it decreases inflammation and provides nutrition as it is rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, protein, and other nutrients.
- Add one teaspoon of crushed fenugreek seeds to one cup of hot water.
- Let it steep for three to five minutes.
- Strain and drink this tea once daily until you see improvement.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that ginger may be helpful in managing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Furthermore, it is excellent for the digestive tract. Do not take it in excess, though.
- Put two tablespoons of grated ginger in one cup of water. Boil the solution and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Finally, strain and drink the tea. You can also add a little lemon juice and honey to it. Do this a few times a week until you see improvement.
- Alternatively, you can take ginger supplements after consulting your doctor.
Chamomile can be quite helpful because it soothes the digestive tract and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Add three teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers to one cup of hot water.
- Allow it to steep for about 10 minutes and then strain it.
- Drink this tea three times a day during flare-ups.
In addition to these useful home remedies, follow some dietary measures like cutting down on refined carbohydrates and eliminating food allergens from your diet.
Plus, take probiotics, drink plenty of water and eat five or six small meals instead of the usual two or three larger ones. Eat a highly nutritious diet and consider taking multivitamins because ulcerative colitis tends to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Also, needless to say, do consult your doctor if the symptoms become worse.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Subramaniam Ramakrishnan, MD (Gastroenterology)
What might be the long term side effects of an untreated ulcerative colitis?
Some of the long term side-effects of an untreated case of ulcerative colitis are:
- Nutritional deficiencies – Iron deficiency
- Poor growth in young/adolescents/children
- Weight loss and risks related to weight loss such as osteoporosis
- Increased risk of bowel perforation and emergency admissions
- Increased risk of bowel cancer
How long do ulcerative colitis flare-ups usually last?
If treated appropriately all flare ups should get under control in about 2 weeks’ time.
Is eating probiotics helpful when suffering from ulcerative colitis?
- There are as yet no randomised control trials of probiotics and UC but anecdotal evidence suggests some improvement in symptoms.
- However, trials are being conducted to ascertain role of bifidobacteria in people with Inflammatory bowel disease after initial pilot studies suggest improvement in symptoms.
Can ulcerative colitis lead to colon cancer?
- Yes, it is well documented by evidence that UC, especially in those who have active disease can predispose to bowel cancer.
- Subsets of patients who have UC and PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis) have a much higher rate of bowel cancer.
Any tips and habits that can help control ulcerative colitis?
- It is vitally important to highlight any flare of symptoms to health professionals who know patients well.
- Self-management options can be helpful as initial strategies to try and achieve control of symptoms as agreed with health practitioners who normally looks after the patients.
- Maintenance of hygiene is vital to avoid any infectious gastroenteritis that can worsen symptoms of UC and mimic flare/exacerbation.
- It is important to take adequate balanced nutrition with particular attention to ensuring iron, calcium, vitamin D as well as calories to ensure ideal body weight.
- Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics which can predispose to C.Difficile infection.
- Regular exercise and reducing stress by any means possible can also help patients’ overall well-being.
- Monitoring and follow up appointments have to be strictly adhered to so complication(s) related to UC or to the treatments such as steroids, immune suppressants, biologics can be minimized.
- Psychological support should be part and parcel of all patients who have UC.
About Dr. Subramaniam Ramakrishnan, MD: Dr. Ramakrishnan has been practicing as a Consultant Gastroenterologist since 2007, with a special interest in all aspects of endoscopy, gastroenterology, and liver and pancreatic diseases.
Dr. Ramakrishnan is currently the lead for research in Gastroenterology for the Trust. He is also the lead for the Endoscopy Unit at Spire Cheshire Hospital and has led the team in the hospital to achieve National Accreditation (JAG) in 2016.