The symptoms are uncomfortable and more than a little scary: abdominal pain, blood or mucus in the stool, diarrhea, cramping, urgent bowel movements, weight loss, and more. When you have colitis, a serious inflammation of the colon, you may feel as if you’ll never be comfortable again.
Doctors aren’t sure that causes colitis, although they think it may steam from infection or problems with the immune system. There also appears to be a genetic link – if your parents have colitis, you’re at a higher risk of getting it, too. One of the worst things about colitis is that it’s so unpredictable. In some cases it goes away for weeks, months, or even years at a time then comes roaring back.
There are things you can do at home, however, to reduce the symptoms and make this painful condition a little bit easier to live with.
Keep eating well. It’s hard to keep up your appetite when your insides are acting up, but it’s critical for people with colitis to eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and other nutritious foods. This condition can cause the body to lose enormous amounts of nutrients. Eating well as often as you can, will help your body become strong and able to cope with the discomfort.
But keep track of what you eat . For many people, certain foods appear to trigger colitis flare-ups, or to make the symptoms they’re already suffering worse. There is not one food that is right – or wrong –for everyone, so it’s up to you to discover if certain foods are causing your problems. Doctors often recommend that people with colitis keep a food diary, in which they write down everything they’re eating. That way, when your symptoms return, you’ll be able to look back and see what may have contributed to the problem – and what you’ll want to avoid next time.
Use fiber wisely . Research suggests that eating fruits, vegetables, and other fiber rich foods can help prevent colitis flare-ups. On the other hand, eating fiber when you’re already having symptoms may make you feel worse instead of better. Doctors usually recommend that people with colitis get plenty of fiber in their diets when they’re feeling well, then cut back on it during bad times. During flare-ups, many people still eat fruits and vegetables, but peel them to remove a lot of the fiber. This is one time when you may want to use canned fruits and vegetables. They have less fiber than fresh.
Go easy on dairy. Many people with colitis have difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar in milk and other dairy foods. You may find that giving up dairy – or at least eating less of it – will help relieve your symptoms.