Colitis, also known as ulcerative colitis, refers to a type of inflammatory bowel disease affecting the inner lining of the colon (the large intestine). Inflammation of the intestinal wall, whether chronic or acute, causes ulcers to be formed in the top layers of the lining. These ulcers may bleed and produce pus. A patient of colitis experiences an uncontrollable urge to empty the bowels frequently as in diarrhea (loose motions), in many cases accompanied by abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, painful spasms, appetite loss, fatigue and fever. The condition can affect people of all ages, but it is more commonly found in the 15 to 30 age group.

What Causes Colitis?

There are many theories about what may cause colitis. Contrary to popular belief, colitis is not a direct consequence of mental stress or an allergy to certain foods âEUR" though these factors may trigger or worsen the symptoms of colitis in certain people. It is found that people suffering from colitis present some abnormalities in their immune system, which supposedly starts reacting abnormally to some virus or bacteria present in the digestive tract, causing inflammation in the intestinal wall. But this may possibly be a consequence rather than the cause of colitis.

Research has also shown that family history, certain viruses and protozoa, and toxins-producing bacteria like Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium and Shigella species may play a strong role in causing colitis. Patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment in the pelvic region may develop local colitis. Sometimes strong doses of some antibiotics can also trigger colitis. In the elderly, a drastic decrease in the blood supply (ischemia) to the colon is another factor contributing to colitis.

Detrimental Effects of Colitis

Persistent inflammation of the colon lining can cause extensive damage of the cells in the lining, and has been found to lead to colon cancer in about 5% of the patients suffering from chronic colitis. Obviously, the risk of colon cancer increases with the duration of the disease and the extent of damage caused to the colon lining. For example, if the damage extends to the entire colon then the risk of cancer may be as much as 32 times the normal, but if only the lower colon and rectum are involved then the risk is no higher than the normal. Also, people showing dysplasia (precancerous changes in the colon lining) are more prone to develop colon cancer from colitis.

Is Colitis Preventable?

Strict hygiene and sanitation measures while handling, cooking and eating food can go a long way in preventing colitis associated with infective germs. Other than that, as goes for any other health problem, incorporating healthy lifestyle and diet changes in your daily routine helps to make your body as disease-free as possible by strengthening your immunity to keep at bay not only colitis but also other diseases. Adopt the best health mantra: moderate exercise combined with a healthy diet consisting of whole grains, lentils, fruits, vegetables and water in plenty, and animal-origin foods in as restricted amounts as possible.

Diet Recommendations for Colitis

Diet goes a long way in helping you manage colitis. First and foremost, since fluid loss is substantial in colitis, make sure to drink 2âEUR"3 liters of water and lots of clear fluids like light soups, lemon tea, lemonade, etc., in order to prevent dehydration. Avoid greasy and fatty foods.

Also alcohol, highly seasoned foods and high-fiber foods may aggravate the problem of colitis and are best avoided. Naturopathy recommends a 3- to 5-day juice fast based on juices of fruits and vegetables like papaya, cabbage, carrot, sweet gourd, etc., and a post-fast diet of steamed vegetables and soft fruits along with plain yogurt. And a thorough chewing of whatever you eat.

To conclude, colitis can be managed and controlled with diet recommendations and restrictions, in addition to treatment with drugs prescribed by a specialist.

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