Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers (sores) in the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum.
Symptoms usually develop over time, rather than suddenly, and include diarrhea, blood in stool and abdominal pain and cramping.
Ulcerative Colitis treatment usually involves either drug therapy or surgery.
Drug therapy focuses on medications to suppress inflammation (ie: steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and biologic DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs).
Most of these drugs have serious side effects, the risks often outweighing the benefits.
Surgery simply removes the inflamed tissue. But that usually means removing a portion of, or your entire colon and rectum (proctocolectomy).
Functional Medicine Management of Ulcerative Colitis
A thorough evaluation of the patient’s signs and symptoms related to the dysfunction in the intestinal tract is necessary and referral to a medical specialist may be needed.
Functional Medicine assessment may include some or all of the following:
- Comprehensive stool analysis and stool microbiology assay to rule out pathogenic bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection
- Assessment of related gut conditions, such as intestinal permeability and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in conditions involving gas and bloating
- Routine blood chemistry to assess inflammatory markers and other organ function that impact the gut (such as thyroid function)
- Food sensitivity testing and nutritional analysis to assess for nutrient deficiencies
- Monitoring the inflammation involved in IBD without undergoing intestinal biopsy
Functional Medicine management of ulcerative colitis is focused on the following:
- Decreasing inflammation and promoting normal immune responses
- Balancing the gut flora
- Improving gut barrier function
- Normalizing motility/movement of the intestines
A number of specific probiotic strains have been shown to be helpful in relieving symptoms of IBS and can be helpful to restore balance to the gut flora.
Digestive enzymes are often used to support proper digestion of nutrients in order to minimize incomplete digestion and malabsorption, which can aggravate IBS.
Nutrients to regenerate the epithelial lining
There are a range of plant compounds, vitamins and minerals that have been shown to have a restorative effect on a damaged intestinal barrier and a proper selection and regime can be very effective.
Various herbal compounds can be effective in reducing intestinal spasm and the proper choice can be helpful with this condition.
Anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating compounds
Anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating herbs and nutritional compounds to decrease excessive immune responses can be very helpful.
Nutrients to decrease food sensitivities
Food sensitivities are often associated with IBS and decreasing specific immune responses in the gut related to food sensitivity is often helpful.