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More Than Just Symptom Masking – How To Really Treat Ulcerative Colitis

So you've been told or believe you have ulcerative colitis. Dealing with the pain, discomfort, not to mention the embarrassment, of this idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease is one of the most miserable conditions a patient can experience, but what can be just as bad or worse, is having no working treatment options. Many patients ask what is causing this disease and how does one go about treating it beyond the use of steroids, medications, surgery or "cure all" supplements. Unfortunately, there has been little to no explanation of these questions, until now. This article will outline new, powerful approaches to ulcerative colitis.

The answer involves learning more about your likely individual causes, rather than focusing on a set of symptomatic Band-Aid treatments that only temporarily help. According to physicians, an integrative, dynamic medical approach can really help patients customize treatment far beyond common medications and surgery options. How? Simply by including each patient's "triggers" and "possible causes" at the core the patient's treatment plan.

If you have ulcerative colitis, you may not always be aware of the fact that your symptoms, triggers and potential causes when examined in detail are different than others with UC or IBD (inflammatory bowel diseases) and there is a good reason for it. In fact, it is these differences that can profoundly impact better treatment for patients. Let's take a closer look.

Colitis is a disease of the colon characterized by open sores or ulcers, which results in chronic diarrhea mixed with blood and mucus, persisting for an extended period. This can lead to weight loss and anemia, coupled with varying degrees of abdominal pain, anywhere from mild discomfort to painful bowel movements.

In the family of inflammatory bowel diseases, 15% are associated with death in advanced cases. Ulcerative colitis is usually continuous from the rectum, with the rectum almost universally being involved in some way. The visual pathology during colonoscopy in ulcerative colitis says a lot about the autoimmune behavior and chronic inflammation of this disease. The visual changes involve distortion of crypt structures (glands connected to epithelium and intestinal villi), inflammation of crypts, glands and epithelium that bring about (cryptitis), painful frank crypt abscesses, and hemorrhage or inflammation. All of this increases the constant risk of dangerous systemic infections.

In fact, in many cases where the clinical picture is unclear through colonoscopy, the histomorphologic analysis plays a pivotal role in determining diagnosis and management. By contrast, a biopsy analysis may be indeterminate and thus the clinical progression (symptoms) of the disease dictate its treatment. The symptoms are all often connected to autoimmunity and inflammation. The microbial populations or the gut flora within the regions of colon inflammation are also highly disrupted and linked to continuation of the disease process.

These symptoms come and go, with periods that are symptom-free and periods that are very painful and chronic. Ulcerative colitis is quite similar to Crohn's, but has distinct differences. To learn more about Crohn's, click here.

In addition to the problems with bowel movements, ulcerative colitis often leads to other issues outside of the colon, including inflammation of the eyes, mouth ulcers, varying degrees of arthritis, painful skin lesions, anemia and more. This too points to a full body autoimmune disease that requires better treatment of causes, not simply symptoms.

Regrettably, there is no known singular cause for ulcerative colitis, but there are some good indications. Genetics and stress have been blamed as the causes to UC, but it is believed that environmental factors, such as infections (bacterial like Lyme disease, fungal like candidiasis, parasitic and viruses, chemical toxicity and heavy metals poisoning) are just as important. The symptoms are often worsened by triggers like dietary changes, emotional stress patterns and allergen exposure. Most patients again focus on managing the triggers, but really never quite treat the cause.

That's why people who make dietary and lifestyle changes see improvement. However, while important, it's still not treating the cause completely. Treating the cause involves deeper testing and analysis of the above factors.

When going through treatment, many doctors treat symptoms rather than addressing what we believe are these causes. Therapeutic concepts are only moderately successful, often meaning that patients will need a colectomy (surgical removal of all or part of the colon) and still may never reach comfortable remission. Furthermore, surgery doesn't actually cure the disease.

This new methodology is far more involved, rather than just prescribing medications that treat inflammation or only doing surgery. Let's compare and contrast the mainstream medical approach with the unique integrative strategy.

A whopping 20% of patients with ulcerative colitis need surgery. Most will be prescribed steroids for a long period, but while this is helpful, it's nothing but a Band-Aid solution. Patients with UC can become desperate, taking many medications, trying various supplements and getting surgery when necessary, but many people have no clue what they're doing to themselves.

Most doctors don't even bother looking for a cause, focusing mainly on long term steroidal care and ignoring the factors mentioned before -- bacterial infections such as Lyme disease, fungal infections like candidiasis, parasitic and viral infections as well as chemical toxicity, heavy metals, poisons and others.

In contrast, it is believed that the roots of ulcerative colitis are various infections complicated by chemical toxins and heavy metals. These foreign bodies can cause the immune system to attack healthy tissue via mimicking antigens, which disrupt the entire immune system behavior and pattern. If you have additional symptoms to UC, such as memory loss or joint pain, then this really points to full-body autoimmune disease.

When the word autoimmune disease is mentioned in the conventional medical world, it's really code for saying there is no known cause for this disease. It is grouped it into one large category by symptoms and clinical evaluation. However, deeper analysis, testing and intake lead some to believe various causative agents in each patient have been ignored for too long. When these other factors are controlled and treated, then the entire disease process changes and patients can return to better health.

Oftentimes, the infections are concentrated in the gastrointestinal tract (GI). Chronic inflammation in these regions leads to overpopulation of the bad bacteria versus good, normal flora or bacteria. Microbial population changes are secondary responses to chronic inflammation.

Microbial changes have help to provide some symptomatic relief. For example, fecal transplants were once used to transfer more good bacteria into the GI, because colon health is partially a population game of healthy versus pathogenic organisms. In its early stages it provided some in the IBD community temporary relief sometimes better than medications. However, more transplants were eventually needed. While this practice has been stopped by the FDA, it's a good indicator that patients need to go beyond probiotics and focus on treating the causes of inflammation while healing the colon and then repopulating healthy microbial. These infections are not only in the bowel, but found systemically in IBD patients.

Next, let's explore what, in the integrative opinion, makes this strategy superior in the long run.

Think of the colon like a forest floor – you want good flora to outnumber the weeds. When untreated, this can lead to "leaky gut syndrome," as well as increased sensitivity to certain foods, inflammation and damage to the intestinal wall. All the inflammation symptoms are brought on by the autoimmune disease process, where immune system is attacking healthy colon tissue.

The answer isn't always steroids – it's been proven that long-term steroid use can lead to more health problems and as they don't address the cause, it doesn't really solve the issue with ulcerative colitis in the first place. Of the people who use steroids, 30% will eventually need colon resection surgery within a year, as well as damaging the immune system, which can lead to cancers like lymphoma. That includes a more in-depth diagnosis that some feel is the answer to eventually reducing and possibly coming off harmful medications.

Here's a quick rundown of personalized integrative approach and methods that give patients an advantage:

  • Proper testing and treat the causative factors. These are the ones directly linked to chronic inflammation (ignored by most practitioners) of the bowel and body regions affected by IBD.
  • Targeting regions directly in the colon that are in critical need (acute phase of disease) helps prevent surgery or increased medication.
  • In cases with ulcerative colitis, there is a very obvious imbalance in the immune system. Rebalancing the immune system is crucial, but often overlooked in conventional treatment. The bestapproach is not immune suppressive treatment but targeted and personalized based on the stage and severity of the UC.
  • Test and balance allergen stress to include customize dietary habits and lifestyle changes to manage all individualized triggers.
  • Eliminate harmful toxins linked to the vicious chronic inflammatory cycle of the disease, including many toxins such as heavy metals, chemicals and neurotoxins from existing infectious agents.
  • Test and balance allergen stress to include customize dietary habits and lifestyle changes to manage all individualized triggers.
  • Restore nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional GI absorption problems are very common with IBD and patients need to be tested and levels restored.
  • Proper long term testing and monitoring for colon health, mental health and disease and cancer preventions with each patient.
  • Help reduce and balance neurotransmitter stress, hormonal balancing and strengthen adrenal glands that become stressed particularly after long-term steroidal usage.

Ulcerative colitis is painful, embarrassing and miserable, but there is hope. Integrative protocols and customized treatment go the extra mile with each patient, making it so that you aren't merely managing symptoms, but really taking in the whole picture. To learn more or if you have any question regarding IBD, UC or other related digestive aliments please feel free to call us or contact us. We are happy to answer your questions.