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Illustration of digestive system overlaid on woman wearing mint green dress

Part of a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis (UC) is a painful condition that causes irritation and open sores called ulcers in the large intestine. If you suffer from UC, you may experience diarrhea with blood, cramping, and urgency that sometimes wakes you up at night. The condition can be debilitating, and conventional treatment has relied heavily on drug therapy and surgery. Unfortunately, the medications used to treat UC can have many side effects, including kidney and pancreas problems, puffy face, excessive facial hair, night sweats, insomnia, and hyperactivity. The side effects can even include more serious conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, bone fractures, cataracts, and glaucoma. Surgery can eliminate UC, but that typically involves removing the entire colon and rectum, so it’s only used as a last resort, in severe cases. Taking all of this into account, it’s no wonder that patients trying to determine how to treat ulcerative colitis are looking to functional medicine for a better way.

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis can affect anyone, but your risk of UC increases if you have a close relative with inflammatory bowel disease, are between 15 and 30 or older than 60, are Jewish, eat a high-fat diet, or frequently use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Experts aren’t sure what causes UC, but believe it’s the result of many factors and probably involves an overactive immune response. When your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body, the result can be inflammation and tissue damage.

It used to be thought that diet and stress caused ulcerative colitis, but recent research has determined that this is not the case. However, these two factors can aggravate the condition. Functional medicine works to treat UC through a natural approach, crafting an ulcerative colitis diet plan for patients and giving them the tools to reduce stress and prevent flare-ups.

Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan

A healing diet is the foundation of a natural ulcerative colitis treatment plan. Because certain foods can trigger an immune response and inflammation, it’s important to start by removing them from the diet. So, what foods trigger colitis? Foods to avoid with ulcerative colitis vary between people, depending on the level and location of inflammation. Some people find that fiber is troublesome during a flare-up, and find that removing fibrous foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, and raw fruits and vegetables can help alleviate symptoms. Other foods and drinks that can be problematic include alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, dairy, dried beans, peas, and legumes, dried fruit, foods with sulfur or sulfate, high-fiber foods, meat, popcorn, refined sugar, spicy foods, and products that contain sorbitol.

A good ulcerative colitis diet doesn’t just eliminate trouble foods, though. There are certain foods you can incorporate into your diet to help improve your symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids can help resolve symptoms, and probiotics have been shown to be effective in treating UC by boosting the immune system and improving digestive function. Iron rich foods can combat anemia, which often goes along with UC, and foods that contain folate can help reduce the risk of colorectal dysplasia and cancer in patients with UC. Incorporating turmeric into your diet can help, because this spice is one of the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world. Unlike the corticosteroids often prescribed to UC patients, turmeric does not have the side effect of damaging the intestinal lining, but actually can help heal the gut. People with UC are advised to keep a food journal to identify their triggers, and eat several small meals during the day instead of a few big meals. Supplements recommended for those with ulcerative colitis include calcium, vitamin D, multivitamins, probiotics, and fish oil.

Additional Ways To Manage UC

Beyond diet, a natural treatment plan includes exercise and relaxation. Moderate-intensity exercise, like yoga and swimming, is good for reducing stress and promoting relaxation, and it also stimulates digestion and boosts the immune system. Relaxation calms the body, which can also aid in digestion. Meditation, stretching, and breathing practices are good relaxation methods, and they can help regulate the digestive system, improve circulation, and thwart the body’s fight or flight mode. While there is no cure for UC, a functional medicine doctor can help you come up with a natural treatment plan to manage it.

Schedule An Appointment with Advanced Functional Medicine

At Advanced Functional Medicine, an integrated medical clinic, we exclusively practice functional medicine. A full functional medicine approach to healing uses a comprehensive diagnostic screening to get to the root of a patient’s issues. Our whole body approach to medicine utilizes all-natural, researched-based nutritional approaches to optimize the body’s natural healing abilities, rather than just using medication to treat symptoms. Each individual receives unique and customized care, formulated based on the latest scientific resource, and we have a 96 percent success rate in patient outcomes. As a medically driven, patient-focused health clinic, we support our patients’ individual health goals, providing natural relief for symptoms of chronic factors and expert guidance about the decisions affecting a patient’s long-term health. It is our goal to help reverse chronic disease without resorting to dangerous or unnecessary drugs or surgical interventions, promoting healing from the inside out, in its truest, healthiest form. To schedule an appointment or learn more about how we can help restore your health and strengthen your body’s unique physiological functions, call 858-500-5572 or contact us through our website.