Ulcerative colitis is a condition that in many cases can and should be treated naturally but rather than health supporting and improvement, ulcerative colitis treatment often lands people on immune suppressors (aka biologics) for their whole life leading to a life of illness and fear. Why should it be treated naturally? Because it is an inflammatory condition. Any inflammatory based condition from arthritis to IBS should be investigated as to its root cause, which will almost always come down to how our environment is damaging our bodies ability to heal. (Kind of esoteric, I know, but keep reading for the details.)
Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune condition that must be treated as an autoimmune condition rather than a bowel condition. (Just like Hashimoto’s isn’t really a thyroid problem.) That being said the entire goal is to decrease the overactive nature of the immune system and restore it to a balanced state of just enough, but not too much inflammation.
All that being said, traditional ulcerative colitis treatment is primarily drug based because of the fact that when individuals see blood it can create anxiety and panic and there can be open wounds involved. So while I am not a fan of long-term immune suppressors (aka biologics for ulcerative colitis), acute medical intervention is frequently needed and if you let your ulcerative colitis go on for too long, that may include surgical removal of your colon. So while you may seek traditional medical intervention to start, once the acute symptoms have been adequately addressed, I recommend you quickly search for a holistic practitioner to find the cause or causes of your situation.
Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms
The direct symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- Diarrhea with or without blood
- Mild to extreme cramping
- Mucus with blood
- Small bowel movements with increased frequency
- Joint pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Other autoimmune conditions
While the direct symptoms of UC are mainly gut related, as the disease progresses you will develop reduced hunger cravings, fatigue, and anemia. Many people think the anemia is due to blood loss, but you can also have anemia due to malabsorption of iron. Iron is extremely difficult to absorb when your digestive tract is inflamed and dysfunctional.
Other conditions often are associated with UC such as migraines, eczema, gallbladder attacks, hair loss, dark circles under your eyes and more. The longer you suffer from UC symptoms without getting to the root, the more likely you are to experience extra health conditions and the worse your UC will get.
Ulcerative Colitis Treatment
First, you should never try to treat ulcerative colitis naturally on your own. In some cases, your natural practitioner will be able to guide you, while in other scenarios you may need multiple doctors on your care team. It may take some time to work on depending on severity, but finding and fixing the root cause of your UC will provide you with lasting quality of life.
Second, many times acute treatment of ulcerative colitis may be necessary in order to keep you from having a much worse situation to deal with or ending up in the hospital. I actually recommend most people see a GI first before doing the natural treatment option just to rule out any more dangerous problems.
Natural Ulcerative Colitis Treatment
Natural ulcerative colitis treatment consists of many parts and every patient will be different. Addressing diet, fatty acid balance, immune inflammation, food sensitivities, underlying infection and healing of the gut are going to be important in most cases. Mitochondrial dysfunction will determine your bodies ability to heal.
The biggest fail I see in the natural treatment of ulcerative colitis is the use of herbs and vitamins to “heal the gut” or to “protect the gut” from damage. Remember the inflammation is what is causing the damage, so figuring out the cause of inflammation is going to be the most important thing you can to do when looking for the best ulcerative colitis treatment.
Lets talk about some of the most common herbs and remedies used for UC that give natural and functional medicine that fail frequently in my office. These are products that I would be willing to use and sometimes I use in a unique case, but are definitely more miss than hit for my patients…
(Remember I am specifically speaking to UC, not all conditions.)
Licorice Root – Using licorice root for UC seems to help some people I find that overall, it works better for stomach and esophageal inflammation. It seems that the glycyrrhizin is the most medicinal of the properties of licorice root, but the catch here is that while it can increase cortisol levels and decrease inflammation. My overall opinion is that licorice acts as more of a calming support for UC while missing some of the root causes.
Slippery Elm – I really want to like slippery elm for the treatment of UC, but based upon my clinical experience it rarely is strong enough to stop or reverse the progression of UC. Slippery Elm does work as a great antihistamine but we must first discover where the histamine is coming from.
Psyllium fiber – Most people need more fiber in their diet. But when you gave gastrointestinal inflammation fiber can be extremely irritating. In fact I won’t even risk using psyllium or inulin fiber with a patient unless it is part of a whole food. Psyllium supplementation is often one of the causes of exacerbation of UC.
Aloe Vera – While I am a big fan of aloe vera and its healing properties, use of aloe vera can often calm inflammation but not treat why you have inflammation in the first place. Or in other words, it is not getting to the root cause. This means that you are going to likely need to take it forever to get relief.
Butyrate – Butyrate is one of those products that is almost on my list of recommended UC products. It is specifically beneficial for the large intestine where UC resides. That being said, it falls under the category of “gut healing and repairing” which is akin to filling up a flat tire when it still has a nail in them.
Glutamine – While glutamine is critical to the energetic system of the digestive tract, it is providing great nutrition without looking for the of the need for additional nutrition.
As to not discredit some of these great products, these are all products that I might include in an ulcerative colitis treatment protocol as a second line of defense. Just like adding broccoli to your diet of fast food, adding supporting products to a dysfunctional system will rarely help an individual. Once the root causes have been address (gut, hormone, immune, detox) then adding gut nutrition is a good way to maintain overall digestive health and help your gut to stay health and avoid an ulcerative colitis flare.
Stay tuned for part 2…