Ulcerative Colitis and Gut Health

Gut health can keep you from feeling 100% and can be impacted by tons of small yet important factors in your life like your diet, hydration, and vitamin intake. Gut health refers to the entire gastrointestinal tract including the intestines, stomach, and colon. Typically, when one area of the gut is irritated or inflamed, it affects the rest of the system. Bacteria play an important role in the gut and allow you to digest food and beverages properly. If you’re not careful with your gut health, it can be more than the discomfort that’s an issue.  

Heartburn, bloating, nausea and fatigue are some of the common ones. If poor gut health goes untreated, it can also trigger more serious issues. Ulcerative Colitis is an example. It can range from mild symptoms to life-threatening, so we take it pretty seriously. While doctors aren’t totally sure what directly leads to it, studies have shown bad gut health can lead to symptoms and flare-ups.  

Before running off to Reddit, Health MD, or other online sources to diagnose yourself with Ulcerative Colitis, it’s important to know the facts and home remedies that can help you maintain a healthy gut and avoid triggers. Let’s talk about gut health, UC, and dietary solutions to keep symptoms away.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

To start, we already know UC is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD.) These diseases can be confusing to navigate because the symptoms are similar. The term ulcerative indicates that the disease causes ulcers within the colon that can be painful and harmful to your health. All forms of IBD can cause bloating and gas, which will make you want to throw away every pair of tight pants you own.

UC primarily affects the entirety of the digestive tract. This includes the inner lining of the large intestine otherwise known as the colon, small intestine, and rectum. We know, not a fun area to talk about but it’s important to understand what can go wrong if your gut health is imbalanced.  

   The most common symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis are:

  • Diarrhea 
  • Rectal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

 These symptoms are common in most forms of IBD, so if you’re experiencing them it’s important to see a doctor. Browsing the ulcerative colitis Reddit page can be a place to compare your symptoms with others, but you will need a formal diagnosis for treatment.

Currently, there is no known cure for UC. While that sounds terrifying, most cases of
ulcerative colitis will be mild and can be treated at home once you know the problem. Typically, those with UC will experience occasional flare-ups due to eating or drinking certain things. There are several types of UC that affect different areas of the digestive tract.

Ulcerative Proctitis

This type of UC happens closest to the rectum, and the telltale sign is rectal bleeding. Typical symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation. Bloating and gas can also be symptoms associated with this type of UC.

Proctosigmoiditis

Proctosigmoiditis is a form of UC that affects the rectum as well as the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon is a connection between the intestine and the rectum, making it a crucial part of the digestive tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain, weight loss, and fever.

Left-Sided Colitis

The name says it all for this one. Left-sided colitis occurs in the left side of your digestive tract. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and pain on the left side with an urgency to have a bowel movement.

Pancolitis

This one affects the colon and will cause bloody diarrhea, significant weight loss, fatigue, and abdominal cramping. You’ll also experience a significant amount of bloating.

No form of UC is going to be fun to deal with, but knowing what kind you have will be helpful with treating your symptoms and finding relief from bloating and gas. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to resolve the issue. Surgery includes removing the colon and rerouting it into a stoma in the abdomen. Excrement will be collected in a pouch attached to the body. If you’re on TikTok, there are a few influencers who explain what it’s like to live with a stoma.

Once you know your diagnosis, you can join the ulcerative colitis Reddit to connect with others!

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

There is no specific known cause of ulcerative colitis, but there are several suggestions. Some experts say it’s hereditary, and others say it could be an autoimmune problem. Diet and stress were thought to be potential causes, but now they are considered triggers of the condition when it’s already present.  

Flare-ups can be caused by eating spicy food, drinking carbonated beverages, or even stress. It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle if you’re living with UC. When you aren’t dealing with a flare-up, you can be more flexible with your diet, but always be aware that triggers can cause one.

When UC is flaring up, the immune system triggers a response to get rid of the bad bacteria in the gut. This is why it could potentially be caused by an autoimmune dysfunction in the body. It’s important to also look at your family medical history. If your relatives have dealt with UC, it’s possible that you will too.

While there isn’t an exact cause of UC, a study at Stanford states that people who suffer from UC could be missing an essential gut microbe. The microbe that is missing helps to create secondary bile acids that are vital to your gut health. If you have UC, it’s crucial to improve your gut health to maintain function and avoid discomfort from the dreaded gas and bloating.

The majority of people who experience UC in their life will start showing symptoms before they turn 30. Again, symptoms may be mild and happen so little that you may not know you have UC for a while. If you’re experiencing frequent bouts of gas and bloating, it’s important to seek out a medical opinion to see if it could be due to an underlying disease like ulcerative colitis.

Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis

Surgery is typically a last resort for people diagnosed with UC. Typically, medications and home remedies will do the trick.

Medications

Medications aren’t going to cure UC, but accompanied diet and exercise can help you maintain your gut health. The medications will work to reduce inflammation and can keep symptoms at bay during a flare-up.

Diet and Nutrition

One of the best things you can do for yourself is paying close attention to your diet for ulcerative colitis. Even when you’re not dealing with a flare-up, a consistent diet free of triggers will keep you happy and free of bloating. Ulcerative colitis can reduce your appetite which causes weight loss and an inability to absorb nutrients. This is why a healthy diet is so important.  

Food and Drink to Avoid:

  • Carbonated drinks
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy Food

Dietary Suggestions:

  • Soft, bland food
  • Pasta
  • White Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes
  • Lean Proteins such as eggs, chicken, and tofu
  • Foods with omega 3 fatty acids such as fish
  • Non-carbonated drinks
  • Probiotics / Prebiotics

People on ulcerative colitis Reddit discuss that everyone’s triggers may be different, and you’ll need to get to know what’s right for you. Paleo, gluten-free, and low-fiber diets tend to be good starting points.

One thing you can do to improve your diet for gut health is to use prebiotics. Prebiotics will help feed the good bacteria in your gut and give it the energy to fend off the build-up of bad bacteria. Having a consistent diet full of prebiotics will keep your gut happy and free of bloating.

Incorporating foods with prebiotics in them is an easy way to have a gut-healthy diet. Eating foods like bananas, onions, garlic and soybeans will help you increase your prebiotic intake without thinking about it. You should also avoid things like coffee and fizzy drinks that can trigger a flare-up pretty quickly.

If you are struggling with giving up carbonated drinks and coffee, try Halfday. Halfday is a prebiotic packed iced-tea. It’s a great alternative for people with UC because it’s non-carbonated and packed with prebiotics to keep your gut in good shape. Other probiotic / prebiotic alternatives like kombucha have carbonation, so can trigger bloating. There’s a variety of flavors to choose from, so you don’t have to say goodbye to flavor to care for your gut. 

Ulcerative Colitis and Gut Health

The intestines are a wild place. They’re home to trillions of microorganisms that affect your gut. Good and bad bacteria reside in the gut and can disagree with each other to cause problems. People living with UC generally don’t have the normal levels of bacteria in their gut, which can cause other problems such as gas and bloat.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that ulcerative colitis isn’t the end of the world. The symptoms are unpleasant and can lead to discomfort and bloating. With no known cure, all you can do is practice self-care and listen to your gut, literally. If it’s making noises, it may be time to see a doctor. Stay away from spicy food and fizzy drinks to keep your colon happy.