What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic gastrointestinal disease that affects over 1.6 million Americans. Ulcerative Colitis is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and is a close relative to Crohn’s disease. The disease causes inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding within your large intestine and can be life threatening. Ulcerative Colitis can affect portions of the colon (proctitis and distal colitis) or the entire colon and rectum (pancolitis). Its chronic nature makes it hard to predict the onset of a flare-up, or relapse, as they often appear suddenly. It is also unknown as to how long the flare will last. This is a lifelong invisible illness that may increase the risk of colon cancer.  If not treated appropriately the inflammation can cause complications that can lead to perforations, anemia, toxic megacolon, emergency colorectal surgery, and more.

A list of symptoms can be found here. Most of what you read will tell you that food is not the cause of Crohn’s and Colitis. That is correct. Food does not cause IBD and food cannot cure it. However, I have found that what I feed my body and how I treat it is directly connected to the status of my condition.

There is currently no cure for Ulcerative Colitis. The cause of this disease is unknown.

For more information on this disease please visit Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

Ulcerative Colitis can be embarrassing, debilitating, and worst of all, invisible to those around you. When I was first diagnosed I found a lot of comfort in the online IBD community on sites like Instagram/Facebook who have this same disease. So please know you are not alone.

25 thoughts on “What is Ulcerative Colitis?

  1. Q

    Hey Laura,

    I’ve recently discovered I myself have some serious intestinal issues that seem to sound similar to Ulcerative Colitis. Also I live the life of a traveling college admissions counselor and wondered what triggered you to get tested (I’ve told my doctor about my issues and they have never mentioned anything like this) and how do you keep on track on the road and with all the free food from the office?

    Thanks you’re quite inspirational 🙂

    Q

    1. mangiapaleo Post author

      I hope spring travel season is treating you alright. To be candid, the reason why I had to get a colonoscopy is because I ended up in the hospital with a flare. I was “going” about 20 times a day. Most importantly all of my bowel movements contained a high amount of blood. It was actually very alarming. After the third day of not being able to eat, but still ‘going’ 10-20 times a day I went to the hospital for dehydration.
      Did you mention any blood to your doctor? If so, and they didn’t test you… change doctors immediately.
      If you are very concerned with your condition it might be a good idea to schedule a colonoscopy with your gastroenterologist. As far as staying healthy on the road, I suggest finding hotel with kitchens or at least refrigerators. Meal prep and bring snacks if you can. Sleep is so important too. So when you’re planning travel remember to pick a hotel close to your college fair at night so you can just go to bed right away.
      Stay away from fast food and those old wraps at the college fairs. haha. Alcohol will only make things worse so when everyone goes out after a national fair don’t feel bad about drinking seltzer and lime. Stay hydrated. Meal prep. Bring lots of snacks!
      Keep in touch,
      Laura

  2. Emily Walker

    I was told I have ulcerative Colitis in February. I have been on meds ever since. I have also been put on prednisone (which i was told that I would not be on it for long. and as soon as i started to decrease I started seeing more “flair ups” so my Dr. has increased it back up) SO which has brought me to your website as I am looking up other ways I can get better without meds as my Dr. talked about other meds that I really don’t want to go on.
    My question to you is did you follow the AIP of Paleo or were you able to follow Paleo. I know that we are all different and different foods will bug some of us and not others. But I want to get off prednisone. (And my dr. said he wants me off it too) but I am just not sure where to start. If I should cut all grains and dairy or really start Paleo.

    Thank you for sharing your story!
    Emily

    1. mangiapaleo Post author

      Hi Emily,

      I’m happy to hear you are looking into other methods besides medication to aid your flare ups. Thanks so much for dropping by the blog. I hope you find comfort and inspiration through food with my posts.
      To answer your question, I didn’t know about the AIP diet last year when I started. So I only followed paleo. You hit the nail on the head when you said everyone is different. There are things on the paleo diet that bother my symptoms, but there are non-paleo foods that do not bother me. So I suggest keeping a food diary. This is especially important when you’re off prednisone as that begins the true test of diet. haha.
      To start, I suggest removing dairy, grains/gluten/wheat, as well as excessive inflammatory foods such as nightshades and nuts, etc. Also coffee and chocolate are other treats to avoid at first.

      I hope you find remission soon! Keep us all updated 🙂

      Laura

  3. li

    Hi Laura,

    Thank you so much for the information and your story. I have had UC for over 30 years, and had 3 major flare-ups. I do not want to take medication, and tried all kinds of diet. I tried paleo for over 2 months now, but still see blood and mucus in my stool. I really start to lose faith with dieting and feel hopeless. How long did it take for you to heal?

    Li

    1. mangiapaleo Post author

      Sometimes paleo alone will not heal. Although it aids symptoms it doesn’t always heal completely from a flare, depending on the severity. I’m paleo 99% of the time, but if I have a flare I need to be even more strict. I know what works for me (ie, bone broth, lean meats and seafood, no red meat or leafy greens, avoid chocolate/coffee/almonds, etc). However, if your flare is getting worse and it is prohibiting you from living a normal and healthy life then it’s important to try medication. I believe it will help get you into remission THEN you can comfortably stay there with diet.
      I went on steroids during my first flare and that put me into remission quickly, with the help of diet. I originally was supposed to be on them for about 3 months but due to my diet I was able to ween myself off a week or so faster.

  4. Peter

    Hi Laura,

    I also suffer with UC, my most recent flare started August 2013, my GI doctor classifies me as a mild sufferer, however, this flare was the first one that required me to take prednisone, it quieted the flare but I couldn’t shovel food into my mouth fast enough it made me so hungry, I gained 30 pounds in 6 weeks over December and January. I was off steroids by the end of January and went back to the GI doc and have now been diagnosed with IBS on top of the UC. I’m sick of all the meds, blood pressure and Asacol, and know I need to do something. I’ve been reading up on the paleo eating lifestyle and think it might be for me. My big concern is I’m so addicted to sugared drinks and carbs (potato chips) that I’m not sure how to go about starting with the paleo. I just feel so crappy all the time that I’m ready but I just don’t know to start. I also love coffee. Can you drink yerba mate or rooibos tea on the paleo? I’m down to 800 mg of Asacol once a day now. I just had bloodwork done and my triglycerides were 254, HDL 32, and LDL 174. I see this as a wake up call to self improve. Any suggestions on how to survive the discontinuation of the sugar and carbs?

    Thanks
    Peter

    1. mangiapaleo Post author

      Firstly I applaud you for looking into alternative means for your UC symptoms. I struggled with missing the same foods. I started every single morning with coffee. Now, if I drink coffee 3 days in a row i’ll be in a flare for months. My recommendation is to immediately stop drinking coffee. haha. I know that’s hard to hear. Tea is better – roobios is good because it doesn’t contain caffeine. As far as potato chip cravings, try plantain chips. They are paleo… but still starchy so if you are worried about that then keep to a minimum. Also, you can substitute soda and sugary drinks with kombucha. The bubbles sometimes bloat me even more but fermented foods and drink like kombucha is known for helping gut health.

      I hope this helps and thanks for your comment!

      Laura

  5. Milla

    Dear Laura!

    First of all, thank you for sharing your experiences and recepies, they are very useful.
    My husband and I are testing paleo diet right now, bacause he has colitis for 3 years and the symtpoms only got worse. Now the medication also seems to be less efficient than at the beginning and we are worrying about the future.
    You say nuts are no good for colitis, do you think the same about nut flours (almond flour, cashew)? They are supposed to be reduced on Omega6. Do you have experiences about arrowroot flour?
    And the other question: berries have never been a problem for you? Because of the small seeds my husband has never tolerated it,

    Thanks,
    Kamilla

    1. mangiapaleo Post author

      Hi Kamilla,
      Thank you for taking a look at my blog and this post! Your husband is lucky to have your support. 🙂
      I do not believe nuts are good for UC because of their inflammatory properties. Nut flours are especially tricky because it contains more nuts than what you would actually eat. Think of it this way, if you ground up a handful of nuts it wouldn’t make too much nut flour. So, even 1/4 of nut flour is a lot of nuts! You may be able to tell from my recipes that I stray from paleo baking because of the nut flours. Arrowroot flour may be a good alternative as a binder or thickener since you would typically only use a little bit. I do not regularly cook with this ingredient so I’m not sure how it would affect my UC.
      Berries are similar to nuts in that the paleo diet tells us to only eat SOME nuts and berries. So, I don’t think I eat enough berries to bother my digestive tract. Otherwise, I may be a lucky UCer who isn’t bothered by the seeds.

      Best of luck in your new paleo adventure! Best to you and your husband!

      Laura

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  7. Haley

    Hi Laura!

    Your story is similar to mine, except that I have dealt with UC for 12 years now, since age 13. I am to the point of trying my own methods of treating my UC, since my docs only want to up medications with little need to. It makes me wonder if there are kickbacks between docs and these pharmaceutical companies. Im leaning towards the Paleo diet and have found your blog site extremely helpful, likely since you are in the same boat having UC. Are there any books you used to help you start out, or continue to follow? Where can I find the autoimmune protocol?

    Thank you!
    Haley

    1. mangiapaleo Post author

      Hi Haley,

      Thanks so much for your comment and for stopping by my blog.
      I applaud you for wanting to take your health into your own hands with diet! You’ll certainly find some changes – good ones I hope! You’ll discover what works and what doesn’t work. AIP is a great option too! Two great resources for autoimmune protocol are Mickey Trescott at autoimmune-paleo.com and Eileen Laird at phoenixhelix.com 🙂

      Best of luck!
      Laura

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  10. Monique

    Your website inspires me…definitely going to try the Paleo Diet. Been suffering with UC since 2012. Took Sulfasalizine and felt I had a miracle and was cured after a month of the medication…went into remission and had a relapse in 2014. I definitely think it was related to the foods I was eating and work stress that brought it back on. Since then…nothing has worked (Sulfasalizine, natural herbs and probiotics to bring me back to remission.) I definitely think food is related to bringing back relapses. I love your recipes and I am eager to try them out especially since they are geared to people to people with UC. Some of the Paleo diets includes nuts, which I cannot eat since I have been diagnosed with UC. Hoping I can find all the ingredients since I am living overseas now! “Fingers Crossed” Thanks for this website and sharing your story!!!

    1. mangiapaleo Post author

      Hi Monique,

      It can be very frustrating to have found remission only to feel like you’re going backwards in your disease. These relapses are never fun and can be extremely discouraging. I applaud you for taking your health into your own hands by trying to improve symptoms with diet. I hope you find comfort in remission soon through food! Hopefully my recipes will allow you to take pride in your meals and feel control over your IBD. Thank you for your kind words and for joining the Mangia Paleo community.

      Best to you,
      Laura

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