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Colitis: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Diet

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Colitis: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Diet

What is colitis?

Colitis is defined as an inflammatory bowel disorder and is characterised by inflammation in the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) and rectum. The inflammation generally begins in the rectum and the lower part of the large intestine and gradually spreads upward to the entire colon. Colitis hardly affects the small intestine except for the lower part, which is known as the ileum.

For a person suffering from colitis, with time as the cells on the surface of the lining of the large intestine die and slough off, ulcers develop resulting in pus, mucous and bleeding. The inflammation of the inner lining of the colon may cause diarrhoea and/or frequent urge for emptying of the colon.

What are the types of colitis?

Broadly, colitis is classified into four major types. These include:

  1. Ulcerative colitis:

    This is the most common type of colitis. Along with Crohn's disease, Ulcerative colitis (UC) is classified as inflammatory bowel disease. UC usually occurs when the immune system of the body becomes overactive against certain microbes like bacteria present in the digestive tract. It starts in the rectum and eventually spreads to the colon. The condition causes inflammation and painful ulcers within the large intestine's inner tissue lining.

  2. Ischemic colitis:

    Ischemic colitis (IC) is a type of colitis that occurs when the colon experiences restricted flow of blood. The flow of blood can be obstructed by blood clots that can result in sudden blockage. Atherosclerosis, a condition that involves the build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, is one of the major culprits that restrict the flow of blood to the colon.

  3. Microscopic colitis:

    This condition is diagnosed by a physician after carefully examining a tissue sample of the colon under a microscope. Lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis are the two types of microscopic colitis. Lymphocytic colitis is diagnosed if there are too many lymphocytes in the tissue sample. Collagenous colitis is diagnosed when the lining of the colon becomes thick owing to the accumulation of collagen beneath the outermost layer of tissue.

  4. Allergic colitis in infants:

    As the name suggests, the condition affects infants. It generally happens within 1 to 2 months after birth. Symptoms of this condition include excessive spitting up, reflux, fussiness, and possible flecks of blood in a baby’s stool. The cause of this condition is not known.

What are the causes of colitis?

Colitis is caused by:

  • Infections caused by bacteria, parasites, and viruses
  • IBS such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease
  • Allergy
  • Microscopic colitis
  • Ischemic colitis

Can Colitis be caused by stress?

There is not enough data that claims that the colitis could be caused by stress. However, during a flare-up, stress can elevate the symptoms in some people.

Does colitis go away?

Colitis does not go away as it is not cute, however, with the help of proper treatment its symptoms can be controlled. Additionally, early treatment can help manage the remission and limit symptoms aggravation.

It is advised to stay on track of the course of treatment to prevent the worsening of the disease.

What are the symptoms of colitis?

The symptoms of a person having colitis may vary depending upon how severe the inflammations are and where the inflammation occurs. Some of the common symptoms of such a disorder include:

A few patients may also experience some indirect symptoms such as:

A patient having such symptoms should immediately consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How does a person get colitis?

Colitis is the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon caused by the loss of blood supply which results in ischemia. Colitis is caused by an infection, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS), allergic reactions, loss of blood supply, ischemic colitis, and microscopic colitis.

A person can also get colitis as a symptom of another disease such as malaise, ulcerative colitis.

How is colitis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of patients suffering from colitis involves obtaining the medical history of the patient, physical examinations, and a few laboratory tests. A few popular ways of diagnosis are laboratory examination of stool sample, abdominal computed tomography, abdominal X-rays and colonoscopy.

Once the severity of the condition and the area of inflammation within the colon is accurately diagnosed, the treatment begins and it includes both either by drug therapy or by surgery (if found necessary by the doctor).

How is colitis treated?

The problem of colitis is usually treated either by drug therapy or by surgery. There are several categories of drugs that may prove effective in the treatment of colitis. The type of drug prescribed by the doctor mainly depends on the severity of the condition that a patient suffers from. Moreover, the response of patients to various drugs may also be different and hence it might take some time for the doctor to find out the appropriate medicine that would be effective for a particular patient.

In addition to this, it is important for physicians to weigh out the benefits as well as the side effects of various medicines before prescribing them to their patient.

However, in severe cases of colitis, where medical treatment has no effect, the doctors may recommend surgical treatment. The surgical treatment involves the removal of the entire colon and rectum (proctocolectomy) of the patient.

This surgical method is followed by another process known as ileoanal anastomosis where the surgeon constructs a pouch from the end of the patient’s small intestine and attaches it to the anus. This pouch functions similar to the rectum and collects the stool of the patient and helps in excreting them out normally.

Who needed treatment for colitis ?

Any person irrespective of their age and having symptoms such as diarrhoea along with blood or pus, abdominal pain or cramping, loss of appetite, rectal pain, bleeding of rectum, anaemia due to excess bleeding, urgency to defecate, inability to defecate despite urgency, fever, weight loss, weakness due to inflammation of the inner lining of the large intestine or rectum is said to be suffering from colitis and is eligible for this treatment.

What colitis feels like?

Usually, people with colitis feel sudden frequent bowel movements along with abdominal pain. The pain is worse on the left part of the abdomen but it can happen anywhere. Colitis also leads to loss of appetite and consequent weightlessness, anemia, and fatigue.

Who is eligible for the treatment?

In cases of ulcerative Colitis when the symptoms are mild or moderate, it need not be consulted with a doctor and can be self-managed with the application of drugs or home remedies. But in some conditions there arises a need for urgent medical attention. These are the complications that are consequences of the disease and seek proper treatment.

Those serious complications include perforated colon, fulminant Colitis, toxic megacolon, liver, disease, colon cancer, heavy rectal bleeding, and severe dehydration.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Treatment is usually not required in cases that show mild or moderate symptoms. These symptoms include diarrhea, fatigue, bloody stool, and abdominal cramping. These are normal symptoms that can be self-managed and treated using over-the-counter drugs or home remedies or some lifestyle changes.

How to prevent Colitis?

Although no proven cause of Colitis is known till now neither the prevention methods have been discovered, still, diet is considered to be an effective way to the management of the disease. Some of the diet preferences that need to be considered are such as:

  • Consumption of carbonated drinks should be avoided.
  • More and more intake of fluids should be preferred.
  • Small and frequent meals should be taken.
  • High fiber foods like popcorn, nuts, and vegetable skins need to be avoided.
  • Nutritional supplements like probiotics and vitamins are advised to be taken.

What to do when Colitis?

Colitis is a condition that is associated with inflammation of large intestine parts i.e colon and rectum. Some of the things to do in such conditions are such as:

  • Adequate hydration.
  • Skin irritation and pain in the region around the anus should be soothed by soaking in salt water or application of ointment or by painkillers.
  • Easy-to-digest foods should be consumed.
  • Consultation with a doctor should be preferred as soon as possible to start the medications.
  • Medicines should be consumed in the form of liquids or after mixing with foods.
  • Medicines for diarrhea should also be started as early as possible.
  • Incorporation of probiotics in the diet.
  • Seeking support from family and friends is important.
  • Some lifestyle changes should be done such as yoga, meditation, and exercises.

Should I go to urgent care for Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis may be present with some mild or moderate symptoms including diarrhoea, abdominal cramp, fatigue, and stool with blood. It can be cured by self-treatment methods in such cases, while there are complications related to the disease which need urgent care and treatment.

Such complications which seek immediate consultation with a doctor include perforated colon, fulminant Colitis, toxic megacolon, dehydration, liver disease, and colon cancer.

What is the best medication for colitis?

The drugs prescribed by the doctor for the treatment of colitis mainly include anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, anti-diarrhoeal medications, pain relievers (except ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and diclofenac sodium as they tend to worsen the symptoms and increase the severity of the disease) and iron supplements.

The common anti-inflammatory drugs used in the treatment of colitis include amino-salicylates and corticosteroids. The immune system suppressors used for treatment are azathioprine, mercaptopurine, cyclosporine, infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab and vedolizumab.

What to eat for Colitis?

Diet plays a key role in the management of ulcerative Colitis. Some of the foods which are preferred for easing the symptoms in its case are such as:

  • Fruits that are low in fiber content like banana, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and cooked fruits.
  • lean protein such as fish, eggs, soy, and tofu.
  • Refined grains include white rice, white pasta, oatmeal, and potato.
  • Green vegetables in the form of fully cooked as well as seedless and skinless.
  • Nutritional supplements such as protein shake.

What not to eat for Colitis?

As diet is related to the management of Colitis, it is important for us to know about the foods that have a negative role in the wellness of the disease. Some of the foods that need to be avoided in case of Colitis are as follows:

  • Bread, pasta, and cereals which are a product of whole grains.
  • Some whole-grain products such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats.
  • Nuts like walnuts, cashews, almonds, peanuts, etc.
  • Seeds include flax seeds, millets, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
  • Beans such as chickpeas, soya beans, etc.
  • Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber content.

Is cheese bad for colitis?

Cheese intolerance in people with colitis is common. Thus, if dairy products trigger your colitis, it is best to avoid cheese or dairy products overall.

Can you eat a salad with colitis?

A salad containing cucumbers, spinach, zucchini, raw lettuce, and cooked onion, greens, carrots, seedless yellow squash, pumpkin, potatoes, and eggplant can be eaten as it is a low-residue diet.

Can I drink coffee with colitis?

Coffee is not recommended while suffering from colitis as it can stimulate the intestines and flare-up the disease.

Can I eat mashed potatoes with colitis?

Mashed potatoes can be eaten while suffering from colitis as it is low-fibre and easy to digest.

Is there a difference between colitis and ulcerative colitis?

  • olitis is the inflammation of the colon's inner lining which could happen because of an infection caused by a bacteria, virus, or a parasite.
  • While ulcerative colitis is more extreme than colitis and lasts lifelong, however, it is not caused by a pathogenic infection.

Are there any side effects?

Like most other treatments, medications used for treating colitis also have some side effects. It is important for a patient to know how to differentiate between the symptoms of colitis and the possible side effects that may arise from its medications. A doctor, who prescribes the medicines for a patient of colitis, must always weigh out the benefits as well as the possible adverse side effects of the medication.

Some of the common side effects of the treatment of colitis include headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, rash, loss of appetite, decreased white blood cells, decreased sperm production in males, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramps, gas, hair loss, dizziness, kidney problems, weakness, pericarditis, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, weight gain, mood swings, acne, osteoporosis, cataracts, high blood sugar levels, insomnia, lymphoma and others. In case a patient suffers from some serious side effects then he/she must immediately consult a doctor for remedial measures.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

The treatment of colitis involves a number of medications and proper diet (mainly fluids and excluding any type of spicy food). Even after the patient recovers from this problem, he/she needs to follow some guidelines given by the doctor in order to stay healthy.

The post treatment guidelines to be followed by a patient include taking the medicines regularly on time, having a healthy diet, taking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and practising regular exercises to facilitate proper bowel movements.

Even after recovery the patient needs to go for follow-up check-ups on a regular basis as instructed by their doctor. In case, a patient suffers from any side effects during the time of medication then he/she should consult a doctor for its remedy

How long does it take to recover?

The time taken for a patient of colitis to recover from this problem usually varies depending on the seriousness of the condition and the physiological response of the patient to the prescribed medications. Usually cases of mild colitis may take about 3 to 4 days to recover for children and about one week for adults. However, patients suffering from severe colitis may even take 3 to 4 weeks to recover from this condition.

How long can colitis last?

Colitis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that may even last a lifetime. However, it can be managed with proper and consistent treatment. Additionally, the symptoms can flare up or even go away for months ends, however, you will always be in remission.

What is the price of colitis treatment in India?

The price of the treatment of colitis in India varies depending upon the seriousness of the condition of the patient and the medication that his/her doctor prescribes. Usually mild colitis can be treated with medicines that can cost as low as Rs. 1300 (for full treatment).

However, patients suffering from severe colitis may require costly medications and even surgical treatment (if necessary) and for such treatments, the price range can be between Rs. 57,400 to Rs. 7,87,500 in India. This treatment is available in almost all leading hospitals in India.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

It should be remembered that colitis, being an auto-immune disease characteristically has a relapsing-remitting course and this means that there are periods of flare-ups which are then followed by a period of remission. Presently there are no medical treatments for the complete cure of colitis.

The medical treatments only tend to lessen the severity of the condition. However, conditions such as inflammation of the bowel, bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramping can be stopped with surgical treatments.

How to cure colitis permanently?

A variety of treatment options exist for ulcerative colitis. These include medicine and dietary changes. It must be noted that these are not curative treatments. However, you can opt for surgery to get your colon and rectum removed.

There are natural remedies that are believed to cure colitis. Some of them are:

  • Avoiding foods that lead to flare-ups
  • Regular exercise
  • Stress reduction
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy
  • Consuming omega 3 rich foods
  • Intake of herbs like turmeric, ashwagandha etc.

How do you stop a colitis flare-up?

There are certain simple measures that you can take to stop or reduce the frequency and intensity of colitis flare-ups. These measures include:

  1. Keep a food journal: Kindly ensure that you have a record of everything you eat and drink. This will help identify the foods that trigger flare-ups. You can then avoid those foods and reduce your risk of flare-ups.
  2. Limit your fibre intake: Too much fibre is associated with colitis flare-ups. Do not consume foods that offer more than 1 gram of fibre per serving. Such foods include white rice, white pasta, eggs, butter, fish etc.
  3. Exercise:Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of colitis flare-ups. Exercise is known to reduce inflammation in the body. However, it is recommended that you opt for low-intensity exercises like walking and swimming.
  4. Reduce stress:Reducing stress can reduce the inflammatory response of the body and help overcome flare-up faster. Activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, etc can provide relief from stress. Also, ensure that you get adequate rest and sleep every day.
  5. Eat smaller meals:Reducing meal size can help people with a history of colitis flare-ups. However, you can increase the frequency of meals but ensure that the meals are smaller than usual.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Although medical and surgical treatments are considered as the best ways to control the conditions of colitis, there are a few alternative treatments as well. The alternative treatments for the conditions of colitis include taking of herbal and nutritional supplements, probiotics, fish oil (although excess consumption of fish oil can cause diarrhoea), Aloe Vera gel, acupuncture therapy and/or turmeric.

In addition to this, the patient should avoid consumption of spicy food, dairy products, alcohol, beverages and fibres in their diet. Eating of small light nutrition-rich meals at regular intervals throughout the day, plenty of water and multivitamin supplement helps to recover from this condition.

Physical Exercises for people suffering from Colitis:

Exercises can be a part of the management of ulcerative Colitis, which may result in reducing the severity of the symptoms as well as help in prevention. Some of the exercises which prove to be helpful in this condition are such as:

  • Exercises to strengthen the bones which include walking, climbing stairs, dancing, and weight-bearing exercises.
  • Strengthening exercises for muscles and joints such as aerobics, cardio, swimming, and cycling.
  • Exercise to promote faster recovery from surgery.
  • Stress lowering exercises such as yoga and meditation.
  • Exercise like brisk walking or regular exercise reduces the chances of colon cancer.

What are the home remedies for colitis?

Home remedies do not cure colitis but they can help in controlling the flare-ups and symptoms. Some home remedies that can help manage colitis are:

  1. Having probiotics such as yogurt to promote the growth of helpful bacteria in the digestive system
  2. Having a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to minimize bone damage
  3. Maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body
  4. Having a low-fibre diet
  5. Exercising regularly to support weight management and maintain energy levels
  6. Avoid dairy products as these can trigger colitis flare-ups
Summary: Colitis is a condition which is associated with an inflammation of large intestine parts i.e colon and rectum. Although no proven cause of colitis is known till now neither the prevention methods have been discovered, some diet changes and lifestyle modifications are considered to be an effective way for control and management of the condition. It may be associated with some serious complications such as perforated colon, fulminant colitis, toxic megacolon, liver, disease, colon cancer, heavy rectal bleeding, and severe dehydration.

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