Although there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, treatments and remedies are available for people living with the condition. These include medication, exercise, and dietary tips.

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term autoimmune condition that involves the large intestine, also called the colon. With ulcerative colitis, an individual’s immune system attacks the colon. This leads to inflammation, swelling, and the development of small sores in the lining of the colon.

Symptoms, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloody stools, may come and go. Although symptoms of ulcerative colitis may go into remission, the condition is long term.

Read on to learn about treatments and remedies that can help a person living with ulcerative colitis.

A person is playing volleyball on the beach.Share on Pinterest
Mint Images/Getty Images

Medical treatments can help a person with ulcerative colitis to manage the condition. With the right treatment plan, a person can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Medical treatment for ulcerative colitis may include medications such as:

  • Aminosalicylates: Aminosalicylates are medications that work in the intestinal lining to reduce inflammation.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids help to reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressants suppress the immune system to decrease inflammation.
  • Targeted synthetic small molecules: This medication reduces inflammation by targeting a specific part of the immune system.

In one-quarter to one-third of people with ulcerative colitis, medication alone is not completely successful at treating the condition. In those instances, doctors may recommend surgery.

Surgical options include removing part or all of the colon and rectum. Surgeons may also create an opening in the abdomen called an ileostomy. This opening allows stool to empty into a pouch attached to the skin.

A person’s doctor can advise on which medications they recommend and when surgery might be an option.

Learn more about medications for ulcerative colitis.

Exercise helps maintain a healthy lifestyle. It may also provide help in dealing with the emotional issues that can develop with a long-term condition such as ulcerative colitis.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, many people with inflammatory bowel disease experience depression and anxiety. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which have mood-enhancing benefits.

During a flare-up of symptoms, healthcare professionals advise people to limit strenuous exercise and allow the body to rest.

No specific foods appear to cause symptoms of ulcerative colitis. However, eating some foods may trigger a flare-up.

Trigger foods may differ for different people. It may be helpful to pay attention to diet to determine foods that may cause an increase in symptoms.

Common trigger foods include:

  • high fiber foods, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and asparagus
  • high lactose foods, such as ice cream, cow’s milk, and cream
  • sugary foods, such as cakes, candy, and cookies
  • high fat foods, such as fried foods, butter, and cheese
  • sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners

Although doctors do not typically recommend one specific diet to treat ulcerative colitis, certain foods, when eaten frequently, may decrease inflammation.

They may recommend:

Learn more about foods to eat and avoid with ulcerative colitis.

Some supplements may help a person to manage symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

Curcumin supplements

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. It may have an anti-inflammatory effect.

A 2020 review found that curcumin supplements combined with certain ulcerative colitis medications were three times more effective at reducing symptoms than the placebo.

Omega-3 supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids may have anti-inflammatory effects and other health benefits.

Omega-3 is available as a supplement. Fatty fish, nuts, and some green vegetables also contain omega-3 fatty acids.

However, researchers need more evidence to conclude the specific effect on ulcerative colitis.

It is best for a person to discuss with their doctor whether they may benefit from increasing omega-3 fatty acids in their diet or taking omega-3 supplements.

Learn more about omega-3 fatty acids.

Stress may play a role in triggering symptoms or a relapse of ulcerative colitis.

A 2022 study found that people with higher perceived stress were 3.6 times more likely to have a flare-up of ulcerative colitis symptoms than those with low perceived stress.

Feeling stress can also impact how well a person sleeps. Lack of sleep can make it more difficult to cope with symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

People manage stress in different ways. Examples of ways to manage stress include:

A person’s doctor can provide more tips on ways to manage stress.

Learn more about managing stress.

Regular appointments with a doctor are a vital part of an effective treatment plan.

In general, someone with ulcerative colitis should see their doctor if:

  • they experience an increase or changes in their symptoms
  • they feel that their medication is not working as expected
  • they experience side effects

A person may also wish to contact their doctor to discuss their current treatment plan and any other treatment options that may be available to them.

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition that occurs due to an abnormal immune system reaction.

A person can manage ulcerative colitis symptoms or flare-ups with a combination of medical treatments and home remedies such as exercise and dietary changes. In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery.

It is best for a person to contact their doctor to discuss their treatment plan.