Colitis refers to several different maladies that adversely affect the colon and an individuals ability to absorb adequate nutrition and effectively eliminate waste. Colitis may refer to one, or more, irritable bowel diseases. In some cases, a diagnosis refers to a temporary infliction, while others are only the beginning of a lifelong struggle to stay healthy. Thus, its important to understand the health options available for the most effective cures and remedies for colitis.
What’s in the Name “Colitis”?
Although the symptoms may be similar, one diagnosis of colitis may not be the same as another. Therefore, it’s extremely important to listen to the doctor, ask questions, and understand what is going on inside the body, in order to make the appropriate treatment decisions for a particular type of colitis.
Colitis is usually the result of some other health problem. When the symptoms get too severe a diagnosis is made. Generally, the doctor will want to determine type and initial cause of the colitis and the extent of the treatment necessary, in order to get the symptoms under control. A patient may have:
- ulcerative colitis (ulcers)
- Pseudomembranous colitis (antibiotic)
- collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis (microscopic)
- Ischemic colitis (injuries)
Only a careful examination by a physician can determine a correct colitis diagnosis. However, its important to understand that colitis may not be a temporary condition. Flare ups can occur at any time, because colitis is often a result of chronic conditions. When the main health problem becomes more active, the bowel becomes inflamed.
Will the Real Colitis Please Stand Up?
Actually, colitis is not a diagnosis to be taken lightly. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. It’s important to become educated in treatment options, what may cause flare-ups, and how to get the symptoms under control, before they get out of control.
For example, ulcerative colitis is pretty much as nasty as it sounds. Something has irritated the colon, to the point of creating one or more ulcers. Unfortunately, the first symptom may be diarrhea, or bloody diarrhea, because the colon doesn’t have the nerve endings that let a person know when he/she should be in a lot of pain.
Although the symptoms may be the same, Pseudomembranous colitis is generally caused by antibiotics that the patient is taking for a totally different problem. It sounds weird. But, after understanding how the colon works, it makes sense.
The colon is loaded with bacteria that is necessary to break down food, send it through the body as nutrition, or make sure it gets œflushed as waste. Unfortunately, antibiotics often target more than the intended illness. Sometimes, it kills the necessary bacteria, and lets bad bacteria run rampant, causing colitis.
C-Difficile is a classic example. Patients or health care workers in hospitals or rest-homes are probably the group most susceptible to this type of colitis. Oddly enough, the only way to get rid of antibiotic caused colitis is more antibiotics. But, since its so resistant to medication, the new prescription of antibiotics is very strong. If the colitis doesn’t respond, hospitalization may be necessary.
Collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis are definitively diagnosed with the help of a microscope. Oftentimes, the doctor will refer to these types of colitis together, because one often leads to the other.
Ischemic colitis manifests as bloody diarrhea, after the colon has been injured in some way. Pain in the lower left abdomen is common. Although it sounds scary, in most cases the colon will heal within a few days, and the symptoms resolve naturally.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Colitis
Regardless of the specific colitis diagnosis, many of the symptoms are the same. Colitis can manifest itself in one or more different ways. However, don’t try self -diagnosing or assuming anything. Should any of the symptoms last more than a day, two at the most, it’s extremely important to consult with a physician. If you have one or more of the following symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek medical care:
- Bloody Diarrhea
- Abdominal Pain, usually in the Lower Left Quadrant
- Unintentional Weight Loss
- Low-Grade Fever
- Rectal Pain
- Rectal Bleeding
What Causes Colitis?
Presented with one or more of these symptoms, some people may rush to the doctor in a panic. After all, one of these problems is not pleasant. Combining two or more of the maladies, and it can be pretty scary. However, it’s important to stay calm and understand what causes colitis to occur.
For example, ulcerative colitis is usually the result of a compromised immune system. Unfortunately, it’s also linked to heredity. In other words, if “Aunt Jane” has ulcerative colitis and her niece has some of the same symptoms, the doctor will want to run tests to confirm/deny a similar diagnosis.
On the other hand, pseudomembranous colitis is directly attributed to antibiotic treatments. Although the medication is intended to target a particular illness, it can also adversely affect the colon. Without the necessary bacteria to adequately control the digestive process, the colon basically gets out of whack. Then, colitis runs rampant, because it’s already resistant to antibiotics.
Collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis are usually another malady caused by a pre-existing condition. It’s simply not fair! People already suffering from diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other health problems that affect the immune system may also fall prey to colitis.
In fact, Ischemic colitis may actually be a symptom of a much bigger health problem like colon cancer, a circulatory system malfunction, or a hernia that is cutting off the blood supply to the colon.
Understanding the symptoms and causes of different types of colitis aid in helping the doctor make a proper diagnosis, and enable him/her to recommend the proper treatment for healing, or at least controlling, colitis.
Who Is at Risk for Colitis?
Thousands, if not millions, of people suffer from one type of colitis or another. While for some it’s a temporary condition, others live with a chronic disease. Especially when a family member has already been diagnosed with this devastating bowel disorder, individuals want to know if they are at risk of developing this ongoing health problem.
Ulcerative colitis (ulcers)-individuals that develop ulcers in their colons may also have a relative with the same disease. Although the reason is unclear, the irritable bowel disease (IBS) tends to run in families
The other major risk for this particular form of colitis is a compromised immune system. Individuals with other chronic illnesses that make them susceptible to getting sick easily are more likely to develop sores in their colons.
Pseudomembranous colitis (antibiotic) – patients recently on a course of antibiotics for another illness are susceptible to this type of colitis. The antibiotics have also destroyed the good bacteria needed by the colon for functioning properly.
Collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis (microscopic) – medication may also be responsible for this type of bowel disorder. Certain types of over-the-counter medications can adversely affect colon function. For example, aspirin may be prescribed to help prevent aches and pains, or even heart attacks, but it can also be pretty hard on the digestive system. In addition, drugs like Zantac, for controlling heartburn or the symptoms of a hiatal hernia can also leave the colon susceptible to microscopic invasions.
Ischemic colitis (injuries) – people with circulatory problems may also be at risk for this major digestive disorder. Age, heart disease, and other illnesses can adversely affect the proper blood flow throughout the body. If interrupted for two long, the lack of blood flow to the colon can cause irritable bowel disease and also result in the death of colon tissue.
Is Colitis Preventable?
For individuals with colitis hereditary factors, or after experiencing an episode of the disease, the natural question to ask is whether colitis is preventable. No one wants to discuss an irritable bowel disorder; and, oftentimes, a sufferer feels like the only person on the planet suffering from such a nasty illness.
But, if more people were willing to talk about it, maybe a means of preventing the disorder would be forthcoming. Fortunately, there are some prevention tips that might keep symptoms at bay.
In an effort to prevent colitis:
- Eat well
- Don’t get run down
- Avoid overmedicating
- Stay as healthy as possible
Eating will doesn’t mean consuming a lot of food. It means eating a diet rich in all the nutrients required by the body. In doing so, the consumption of fiber will also increase. Most individuals don’t get enough of this vital element to adequately sustain a healthy colon. But, a healthy colon is less likely to develop any type of colitis.
Although it may seem unrelated, exercise is also essential to a healthy digestive system. Good circulation throughout the body, especially with increasing age, will also be beneficial in preventing Ischemic colitis.
Also, get plenty of rest. Give the body a chance to regenerate. An exhausted body is less likely to fight off disease, if it comes knocking. People that are run down will be more susceptible to a compromised immune system.
Pseudomembranous colitis is known to manifest itself after a patient has been/is on antibiotics for some other illness. Therefore, its important not to overmedicate. Some people tend to go to the doctor for every sniffle, ache, or pain. In fact, they insist the doctor give them something œnow to affect a cure or control the symptoms. Unfortunately, this is not always the best idea. In reality, the more a person is on antibiotics, the more resistant the medication becomes to illness.
Another problem is not taking medications properly. If a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, dont quit in the middle, when the symptoms abate. Too often, the illness or infection will come back with a vengeance, and more medication will be necessary to get it under control. As a result, the colon is left to further attack on the necessary bacteria in the colon. In addition, people are too quick to down an aspirin regularly, not knowing that it can irritate the bowel and cause disorder.
In short, the best prevention tip is to stay as healthy as possible. If a visit to the doctor is necessary, or preexisting conditions need to be managed, follow the expert advice given to maintain the body as well as possible. As Mama used to say, œAn ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
Testing and Diagnosis of Colitis
‘Unfortunately, there is no way to sugarcoat it. The testing and diagnosis of colitis may seem worse, at the time, than the disease itself. If irritable bowel disease exists, the only way to confirm the illness, and prescribe the right treatment, is to get a look at the bowel, possibly take biopsies, and see what is going amuck in the digestive system.
Probably the most common diagnostic test for colitis is a colonoscopy or endoscopy. The doctor will literally stick a small camera up inside the colon to have a look around. The same device also has a means to take a biopsy, if necessary, for further testing.
Since x-rays of internal organs are difficult to see, the patient may also be required to down some goop that will be visible during an x-ray. Radioactive die may also be injected into the blood stream, so the digestive tract is visible in a CT scan.
Unfortunately for every test of the colon, the organ must be free of all waste, so a clean out is ordered for the night before. In short, the patient drinks about a half gallon of medication mixed with water that is necessary to induce massive diarrhea. Once the elimination runs totally clear of any waste, the individual must not consume anything other than clear liquids prescribe by the doctor, until the next day, after the doctor takes a look at the walls of the colon.
Of course, the treatment of colitis depends on the type and severity of the disease. In many cases, the doctor will prescribe medications to keep the symptoms at bay, until the colon has a chance to heal. A special diet may also be necessary to keep from irritating the bowel again. In a worst case scenario, surgery to remove a section of the colon may be required to facilitate healing and keep the symptoms from causing other potentially life-threatening health problems.
Home Remedies for Colitis
Persons with chronic colitis will have to learn to live with disease. On good days, it might even be hard to remember that colitis is going to always be a concern. However, on the bad days, when a flare up makes life totally miserable, its good to know several home remedies for getting the symptoms back under control. When colitis rears its ugly head, some home remedies include:
- Bland foods
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Tea, water, soda
During a flare-up, its best to eat bland foods. Of course, eating at this point is a matter of survival, not desire. Starchy foods seem to work best. White rice is one of the easier foods to digest. Toast, crackers, potatoes, and plain pasta are some other good ideas.
Its important to stay away from the foods that will only aggravate the colon. Greasy or spicy foods are not a good idea. Dairy products usually exacerbate diarrhea. However, some hard cheeses are tolerable.
Tea, water and clear sodas seem to be okay. However, if the diarrhea lasts more than a day, its a good idea to have a favorite flavor of Gatorade available. It helps replace the electrolytes that get out of whack, when the bowels won’t allow retention of any nutrients.
Understanding the disease and the most effective cures and remedies for colitis is vital, especially for those people dealing with reoccurring flare-ups. However, this information is no substitute for seeking the proper diagnosis and treatment of colitis. Anyone suspecting they might have colitis, or experiencing a flare-up that is not responding to home remedies within a day or two, should see his/her doctor as soon as possible.