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3 Ways To Manage Ulcerative Colitis

I’ve just learned I have ulcerative colitis. How can I manage it?

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Zoltan Rona, MD

Zoltan Rona, MD

Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, is thought to be caused by an autoimmune disorder, and its symptoms include anemia, weight loss, fatigue and cramping. Mainstream immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory drugs can control symptoms before they lead to life-threatening complications; and while the condition isn’t curable, natural approaches can be effective for prevention and ongoing relief. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, it’s imperative that you eliminate stress. You should also make dietary changes, and I’d recommend reading Breaking the Vicious Cycle, by Dr. Elaine Gottschall. The diet proposed in her book is one of the most effective at controlling the condition. An import­ant supplement to take is probiotics, or friendly bacteria, which you can buy in pill form. There are major benefits to be gained from vitamin D, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids and digestive enzymes, such as bromelain, at variable dosages to reduce inflammation. Herbal remedies such as Boswellia, curcumin (from turmeric), folic acid and aloe vera also have anti-inflammatory properties. Doses can be prescribed and monitored by a natural-health-care practitioner.

Dr. Zoltan Rona (@drzoltanrona) practises complementary medicine in Toronto, edits The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and is the author of the bestseller Return to the Joy of Health. 

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Julie Daniluk, Nutritionist

Julie Daniluk, Nutritionist

My sister and I have both kept our colitis in remission by sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet. I’ve found it critical to avoid irritating foods such as grains containing gluten, sugar, fried foods and ice cream. Your bowel needs a complete rest from trying to digest complex foods. Healing choices include peeled, seeded and well-cooked vegetables such as carrots, spinach, squash and pumpkin. There are a number of diet plans that have been found effect­ive. Doctors may recommend a low-residue diet, which is low in fibre and can reduce symptoms such as cramping. Many people find the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet helpful. They restrict grains and certain kinds of sugars and legumes, because these foods can be difficult to digest. Both diets stress the importance of probiotic-fermented foods, such as fresh sauerkraut and homemade yogourt. They also emphasize healing bone broths from poultry, fish and beef, fresh juices and other foods such as fish, ginger, avocado and honey. 

Toronto-based certified nutritionist Julie Daniluk (@juliedaniluk) co-hosts the reality cooking show Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network and is the author of Meals That Heal Inflammation.

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Amanda Vogel, Fitness Instructor

Amanda Vogel, Fitness Instructor

Exercise can help you manage many facets of life with ulcerative colitis. People with the disease have an increased risk of low bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis. To help bones, do weight-bearing exercises like strength training and walking. However, take into consideration the type of exercise you do and when you do it. High-impact workouts like running or boot camp classes may feel jarring. Since stress may exacerbate symptoms, experts recommend gentle exercise like yoga or tai chi. 

If you’re worried about using the washroom during a workout, try a fitness DVD at home, choose a gym with accessible facilities or opt for a treadmill instead of long walks outside. Talk to your doctor about limiting or avoiding exercise during flare-ups or if you’re experiencing extreme fatigue.

Amanda Vogel (@amandavogel), MA human kinetics, is a Vancouver-based certified fitness instruct-or and author of numerous books, including Baby Boot Camp: The New Mom’s 9-Minute Fitness Solution.

Do you have a question for our panel? Our three experts are happy to weigh in-just send us your queries at [email protected]