Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Although treatment options and relief methods have improved in the past several years, there is still no cure for UC besides the complete removal of the colon. However, doctors typically reserve this option for severe disease.
This article explores some treatment options for UC, including natural remedies, and provides information about ongoing research into the development of better treatments for the condition.
A doctor who is treating UC has several options. The goal of treatment will be to help reduce inflammation, prevent flares, and improve a person’s overall quality of life.
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation identifies three main treatment options for people with UC. These options are:
- diet and nutrition
Medications for UC
Doctors typically prescribe medications for UC based on the
For mild-to-moderate cases, they often prescribe oral or rectal aminosalicylates. These are anti-inflammatory medications containing 5-aminosalicylic acid, including:
For moderate-to-severe cases, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids with or without other medications to bring the condition into remission. Once it is in remission, the goal is to limit corticosteroid use. At that point, the doctor may prescribe immunosuppressants, such as:
Doctors may also prescribe biologics, which are products made from living cells. Biologics that people with UC use include:
- Janus kinase inhibitors
- anti-tumor necrosis factor agents
A doctor may also prescribe additional medications, such as antibiotics to treat infections. People sometimes get infections as a complication of UC and immunosuppression.
People with UC should try to avoid using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, to avoid triggering symptoms.
Making dietary changes can play a role in a person’s overall health and continued remission of UC. Although no one diet will help everyone, some diets may be better than others for people with the condition.
The University of Massachusetts Medical School created an IBD diet to help restore the balance of gut bacteria. Research suggests that imbalances in bacteria may be partially responsible for IBD symptoms.
The diet emphasizes four different components for optimal health and control of UC. The four components are:
- Prebiotics: These help feed good bacteria in the gut, and they contain soluble fiber. They include items such as steel-cut oats, vegetables, chia seeds, flax seeds, and bananas.
- Probiotics: These are fermented foods containing live bacteria, such as yogurt, kimchi, and miso.
- Good nutrition: A healthy diet should include fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables.
- Avoidance: Inflammatory foods to avoid include those containing corn, lactose, high amounts of saturated fat, refined sugar, and wheat, as these interfere with gut flora.
Dietary changes, though important in many cases, should not take the place of a doctor’s recommended treatment plan. A person should also talk with a doctor before making any major dietary changes.
According to one 2019 study,
This has decreased dramatically in recent years, and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation credits the use of biologics.
The percentage of people who needed their colon removed in the year after their first hospitalization dropped to 5.3% from 20% several years ago. The share of those who needed a colectomy within 1 year of hospitalization also fell to 11.9% from 30%.
Herbal medicines and complementary therapies will not cure UC. There is limited clinical evidence for the safety and effectiveness of herbal medicine.
Some TCM therapies for UC include:
- wheatgrass juice
- aloe vera gel
- Boswellia serrata, an Ayurvedic herb
- bovine colostrum enemas, which may have anti-inflammatory effects
The researchers added that herbal remedies are prevalent and may be safer overall than Western medications.
- herbal supplements, such as turmeric
There were limited studies showing a decrease in symptoms among people using cannabis, but the authors advised against its use for UC. Due to some adverse effects, more research is necessary.
People with UC may also benefit from complementary treatments that help with mental well-being, the review suggested. Such remedies include:
- cognitive therapy
A person should continue to follow the treatment guidelines they agreed upon with a doctor. They should also discuss any possible changes to their routines.
Although complementary therapies may help, people should be wary of any therapy that promises a cure for UC.
Researchers are continuously looking into new treatments as well as trying to increase their understanding of how UC affects the body.
For example, a team at the Stanford University School of Medicine recently reported on a study that looked at the microbes present in a person’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The study found that people with UC had a deficiency in the amount of good bacteria in their GI tract.
Good bacteria help prevent inflammation. New treatments that aim to correct imbalances in bacteria may help relieve UC symptoms.
Clinical trials for UC
Clinical trials are studies that use people to test new forms of treatment. A person can sign up for a clinical trial as long as they meet the criteria for the study. Before signing up, they should talk with a doctor about the possible risks and benefits of joining an investigational study.
People who are interested in joining a study can also talk with a doctor to see if they know of any upcoming studies they may qualify for. Interested people can also visit ClinicalTrials.gov to find UC studies across the country.
UC does not currently have a cure. Treatment options include different medications as well as dietary changes and some complementary therapies. These can help a person achieve and maintain remission.
Research into UC is ongoing and includes looking at new ways to treat the condition.