Ulcerative Colitis
by Elizabeth Lipski Ph.D. CCN

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Ulcerative colitis is tricky. Although genetic, one must look for dysbiosis, food allergies, life-style and environmental components. 60-70% of the immune system is located in or around the digestive tract. Called the gut-associated lymphatic tissues (GALT) it's located in the lining of the digestive tract, in the intestinal mucosa, peyer's patches in the liver, in secretory IgA, and in M-cells. Because of this tight connection between digestion and immune function, faulty digestion can trigger a wide variety of "auto-immune" illnesses and reactions. Depending on one's genetic pre-disposition, will determine what may occur. This genetic pre-disposition can be modified with diet, lifestyle, supplementation, and complimentary therapies aimed at optimizing function throughout the body.

Sidney Baker, MD talks about his "tack rules" in his book, Detoxification & Healing. The rules are these:

  1. If you are sitting on a tack, it takes a lot of aspirin to make you feel good.
  2. If you are sitting on two tacks, removing just one does not result in a 50% improvement.

When dealing with ulcerative colitis it is important to address underlying issues of the disease and to find out how many tacks someone is sitting on. And in the case of this particular disease, aspirin will definitely not improve the situation! (NSAIDS in general can cause a flare-up of ulcerative colitis.)

Mold sensitivity, and allergies to fungi are sometimes a contributing factor to IBD. Commonly you will see asthma, allergy and/or skin rashes in people with ulcerative colitis. It's important to discover the antecedents and triggers so that you can help teach each person how to modify their lifestyle. It's also important to look carefully at small and large bowel ecology, and food allergies. In the best of cases, often there is a reoccurrence of ulcerative colitis over time. The goal is to minimize the use of prednisone and other anti-inflammatory medications so that when they are needed they will continue to be helpful, to reduce incidence and severity of flare-ups. With careful control, hopefully bowel surgery can be avoided. Typically 20-25% of people with ulcerative colitis eventually require surgery due to massive bleeding, chronic illness, perforation of the colon or risk of colon cancer.

Diet plays an important role in ulcerative colitis. Studies show that incidence is lowest with high fiber, low sugar diets, and rise with use of cigarettes and fast foods. Elaine Gottshall, author of Breaking the Viscious Cycle, has done more for diet and colon disease than anyone. She promotes the Specific Carbohydrate Diet which eliminates all simple sugars from the diet. Many people with bowel disease are unable to split disaccharides into single sugar molecules. Grains, dairy products, legumes, potatoes, yams and parsnips are eliminated from the diet. Allowed foods include: beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, natural cheese, homemade yogurt, fruits, nuts, pure fruit juices, weak coffee, weak tea, peppermint and spearmint teas, oils from safflower, sunflower, soy, corn and olive.

Issues of compliance can be difficult, but people with ulcerative colitis are often willing to do nearly anything to prevent flare-ups of their disease. A specific carbohydrate diet can be of great helpfulness in both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. This means that most grains, sugars, and alcohol are restricted. In addition, it is common to see concomitant problems with utilization of dairy products. This can be difficult socially, as it's unusual in our culture to eat this way. Fortunately, restaurants and food suppliers are responding to the demands of people with food allergies. Much work has to be done to educate people with ulcerative colitis and their families. Once they are aware of their own triggers, they can minimize their risk of flare-ups. Stress reduction and commitment to exercise play important roles in reducing these risks.

Use of probiotic supplements is critical for long-term success in ulcerative colitis. Make sure to take a good quality health supplement that contains at least Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum.

Glutamine is also an essential nutrient. Take between 10-40 grams daily in a cool or cold beverage. Some people find that putting glutamine in their daily water works well. I also recommend 2000 to 10,000 mcg (2-10 mg.) of folic acid daily. Folic acid protects the colon from damage and is cancer protective.

© Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CCN


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