What Mild Colitis Treatment Options Are Available?
If you have been recently diagnosed with mild colitis or looking for treatment for mild colitis, keep on reading to discover all the available treatment options for your colitis.
What Is Mild Colitis?
Colitis is a term which means inflammation of the colon, the longest section of the large intestine, although colitis can affect the rectum too. Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease, alongside Crohn’s disease. These conditions are thought to be autoimmune disorders, meaning that the immune system fails to recognize healthy tissues, and begins to attack them.
As the immune system attacks the large intestine, it causes inflammation which leads to a number of symptoms including:
- Abdominal cramps or pain
- Needing to empty your bowels more often than normal
- Frequent diarrhea or loose stools
- Blood, mucus, or pus in the stools
Colitis affects everyone differently and the symptoms can range from mild to very severe. Mild colitis is defined as:
- Passing up to four stools each day
- Mild abdominal pain
- The possibility of blood in the stools
Like many autoimmune disorders, colitis is characterized by periods of remission during which the symptoms are very mild or go away completely, and flare-ups during which symptoms suddenly become worse. It is unclear exactly what causes colitis flare-ups, but infections, stress, and certain foods are thought to play a role.
Mild Colitis Treatment Options
Colitis is currently incurable, but there are numerous mild colitis treatment options which may help to keep the symptoms under control. The majority of mild colitis treatment options have the effects of reducing inflammation, healing flare-ups, and maintaining remission.
Below are a few types of mild colitis treatment options to be aware of.
Aminosalicylates such as sulfasalazine and mesalazine are often the first-line treatment for colitis. Also known as 5-ASAs, these drugs have an anti-inflammatory effect and can be used to shorten flare-ups and maintain remission.
5-ASAs can be taken orally, or inserted directly into the rectum as a suppository or enema. Like all drugs, they can cause side effects which include:
- Abdominal pain
Despite this, 5-ASAs still remains one of the most popular treatments for colitis and Crohn’s disease today. They can be taken daily if necessary to reduce the frequency of flare-ups and keep symptoms under control.
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Corticosteroids such as prednisolone are another class of anti-inflammatory drug that can be used to treat colitis. These drugs are very powerful and can be used in combination with 5-ASAs or alone. However, unlike 5-ASAs, corticosteroids are only suitable for short-term use. This is due to the serious side effects which they can potentially cause including:
Corticosteroids are used in short courses to promote healing during a flare-up. It is important not to stop taking these drugs suddenly, so be sure to read the instructions on your prescription well and stick to them.
Immunosuppressant drugs like tacrolimus and azathioprine can be used to calm the immune system and relieve inflammation in the bowel. However, these drugs do lower your resistance to infections, meaning that they are often reserved for more severe cases of colitis.
If you have been prescribed immunosuppressant drugs, be sure to see your physician at the first signs of any illness to prevent it from becoming a more serious problem.
If medication is failing to control your colitis symptoms, you may be referred for surgery. This will involve removing your colon and creating an alternative way for you to excrete food waste.
This could mean an ileostomy, where your small intestine is connected to a small pouch through a hole in your abdomen, or connecting your small intestine to your anus allowing it to function as a new bowel. Because of the risks involved in surgery, it is normally reserved for more severe cases of colitis.
Although colitis is not directly related to diet, there are definitely foods which can make it worse. Many people find that spicy, greasy, or high fiber foods aggravate their condition while eating bland, soft food helps.
Everyone is different, so try and identify trigger foods by keeping a food diary for a few weeks and noting any changes in symptoms alongside what you have eaten. If any foods consistently seem to trigger your symptoms, then eliminate them from your diet.
If you have colitis, it is also important to get enough nutrition as having frequent diarrhea can lead to poor absorption of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. This means that people with colitis can be more prone to deficiencies such as anemia. It is a good idea to see a dietician to make sure that you are getting all the nourishment you need while keeping your symptoms under control.
There is not a lot of evidence out there that herbal supplements work for colitis, but one supplement that shows great promise is curcumin. Curcumin is the active compound in the spice turmeric and is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
One study on curcumin for colitis found that the supplement helped colitis patients to achieve remission more quickly than placebo when combined with the 5-ASA drug mesalazine.
If you do not wish to take a supplement, you could always try adding more turmeric to your diet instead.
Stress has the potential to cause colitis flare-ups, and so managing your stress levels is important if you have this condition. Many people find practices such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi help, while others prefer more vigorous exercise.
Some people with colitis find that counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy helps them to manage stress and deal with other colitis symptoms such as pain.
Whatever you do to stay on top of your stress levels, it is important to do it regularly, so find something you enjoy and stick to it.