Ulcerative colitis is one of the chronic pain conditions that make up the category of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). It affects the digestive tract, but specifically is defined as causing inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the large intestines and the rectum. According to the CDC, over one million people suffer from some kind of IDB. This condition can be painful, debilitating, and wreak havoc on your everyday life. However, there are ways to help control ulcerative colitis pain and minimize the risk of flare-ups.
Where does ulcerative colitis pain come from?
Ulcerative colitis can be an unpredictable condition as the cause of it has yet to be uncovered. The illness is also associated with flare-ups, which can have unique triggers. Approximately 30% of people who are currently in remission will relapse in the next year.
It is believed that there is a genetic component that comes into play with this condition. Those with family members with ulcerative colitis are more likely to be afflicted by this condition. This disease can generally be found in any age group, but it is far more prevalent between the ages of 15 to 30, as well as 50 to 70. It is also believed that Caucasians are much more likely to develop this condition and the risk is even higher for those of Ashkenazi Jewish decent.
At one time, it was believed that ulcerative colitis was caused by stress and diet. Today, researchers believe these can be a trigger, but they no longer think it is a direct cause. Most studies are focused on searching the immune systems for a root cause for this condition. It is thought that the immune system might inadvertently attack the healthy cells in the GI tract when trying to fight off foreign invaders, which causes inflammation.
Ulcerative colitis is often confused with Crohn’s disease as they both affect the gastrointestinal tract and are classified as an IBD. While these aliments are similar, Crohn’s disease is distinctly different as it affects the entire GI tract from mouth to anus rather than being limited to certain parts of it. Oftentimes it can be difficult for a doctor to distinguish between these two conditions and the diagnosis of indeterminate colitis is used.
What to look for when you have ulcerative colitis pain
Attacks from this condition vary greatly depending on the person, so it is important to know what a flare-up is to you. It can also affected by the severity of the inflammation as well as where in the large intestine it is.
Ulcerative colitis symptoms can be anywhere from mild to severe. They can slowly build or come on suddenly without warning. It is important to monitor this condition periodically as it can get worse over time even with treatment.
Some of the most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood or pus in stool
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Frequent, uncontrollable bowel movements
There are other difficulties that can happen with this chronic condition. Some of these complications include rupture of the bowel, profuse bleeding, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, severe dehydration, and inflammation of the skin, joints, and eyes. The risk of colon cancer increases as well as the possibility for blood clots in veins and arteries.
Five tips for dealing with ulcerative colitis pain
There are ways to combat the pain that comes along with ulcerative colitis flare-ups. However, it is always best to get treatment from a doctor as they are most likely to efficiently and safely resolve your symptoms.
Here are five strategies you can use to help relieve symptoms and avoid a flare-up in the first place.
1. Watch what you eat
Scientists have ruled out that the root cause of ulcerative colitis pain is food-based, but it is still widely believed that diet can cause flare-ups and intensify symptoms. Proper nutrition, such as a reduction in salt, fat, lactose, or gluten, plays a substantial part in reducing overall symptoms and flare-ups. Even during flare-ups, though, you should still eat as avoiding food can cause malnourishment and dehydration.
Keeping a food journal can be immensely useful when trying to identify food sensitivities. It will help track the categories of food that are possible triggers and then a specific diet plan can be crafted to best suit the patient.
2. Be diligent and careful with medication
A physician will usually prescribe an anti-inflammatory and medication to help with an overactive immune system with a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. This medication is vital to fight off flare-ups and missing a dose can be a trigger all by itself.
When taking medication for this condition, it is always wise to consult a doctor. Certain over-the-counter medications, like NSAIDs, can exacerbate ulcerative colitis as well as cause other issues.
3. Try to dial down the stress
Stress can make every condition worse and ulcerative colitis is no different. Try incorporating stress-busting techniques daily, like deep breathing and meditation, to keep your levels low. Other great ways to not get overwhelmed is to join a support group or talk to a mental health professional.
Even small workouts can have amazing health benefits especially when fighting stress and depression. Creating an effective exercise program can also help normalize bowel functions. Be more active each day and try walking, swimming, or biking for a good low-impact routine.
5. Put together an emergency kit
Having an emergency kit is important as it can help you avoid embarrassing situations, especially when you are at work or school. You can include items such as underwear, pants, deodorizer, and baby wipes in this kit to help you in most situations.
You may never use this kit, but just having it may bring some mental relief, which can help reduce overall stress and pain levels.
Ulcerative colitis pain is a complex disorder. What techniques or strategies do you use to manage ulcerative colitis pain when a flare-up happens?