Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic condition that is characterised by inflammation and ulceration affecting the large intestine and the rectum. A patient suffering from the condition may suffer from repeated episodes of diarrhoea, blood or pus in the stool, fever, abdominal pain, inability to control bowel movement, weight loss, fatigue etc. Complications can lead to worrisome bleeding, colon perforation, dehydration, weak bones called osteoporosis, which can be associated with skin, eye and joint inflammation and an increased risk of colon cancer and blood clots.
Rising burden in India
Mounting evidence suggests that inflammatory bowel disease, including UC, is on the rise in India, and its burden is one of the highest in the world. A 2017 study suggests more than 1.1 million Indians be affected by UC, with a higher rate in the Northern states, reported to affect as many as 44.3 per 100000 populations in one study. Physicians are also witnessing an increased number of young patients with severe symptoms in recent times, highlighting the need for public awareness programme about the condition and its available treatments to manage the condition.
UC usually develop between 15-30 years of age or in individuals more than 60 years of age. Food and stress do not increase one's risk of developing the disease but can aggravate or worsen symptoms associated with it. Eating a high fat-diet diet and frequent intake of pain killers have been linked with increased UC symptoms in a person already known to have the condition.
At present, there is no cure for this condition but can be effectively treated and controlled. Symptoms may vary from person to person and treatment should be individualised based on the patient's age, severity and co-existing medical conditions. However, a few lifestyle changes can offer relief from severe symptoms such as
- Cutting down on fat intake: Overall cutting down on fat intake in the form of fried foods, dairy products and red meat can help to prevent diarrhoea, abdominal pain and discomfort in UC. It is a good idea to choose healthy fats such as olive oil and omega-3-fatty acids found abundantly in seeds and sea fishes in moderation over a high-fat diet.
- Include Vitamin C in diet: Vitamin C is thought to play a protective effect on the digestive tract and help in reducing the risk of inflammation and ulcers. Include spinach, strawberries, guava, bell peppers etc in the diet for longer remission from symptoms.
- Eat Fibre: Eating a fibre-replete diet helps to maintain healthy bowel movements, reducing abdominal discomfort and pain.
Physical exercising: Low physical activity is associated with an increased risk of UC. Regular exercising not only aids digestion but also helps to reduce systemic inflammation, prevent osteoporosis, maintain ideal weight and improve overall psychological health in patients
Screening is advised to rule out complications of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, anaemia, osteoporosis, eye problems, sleep disorder, psychological health, blood clots, colon cancer and increased risk of infections in those on immunosuppressant therapy.
--- Dr Vidyasagar Ramappa, Consultant- Medical Gastroenterologist,
Manipal Hospital Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru