Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Incidence Risk Factors Symptoms Evaluation lower GI endoscopy Treatment drugs questions for doctor specialist Home Care dietary fiber liquid diet ostomy care taking control warning signs Outlook Complications Underlying Cause Anatomy

Ulcerative Colitis Home Care

Home care for ulcerative colitis includes:

  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid enemas and laxatives.
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid exposure to secondary smoke
  • Do not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications or aspirin without your doctor's permission.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to stay well hydrated.
  • Eat a healthy diet:
  • Take your medications as directed:
    • Don't skip doses of your medication. This makes them less effective.
    • Avoid running out of your medication. Refill your prescriptions early.
    • Don't stop taking your medication just because you feel better.
    • If you feel worse, talk to your doctor before you stop your medication.
    • Be aware of the common side effects that may be caused by your medication.
    • Do not stop prescription medications without talking to your doctor.

Ulcerative Colitis Dietary Fiber

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis may worse in those with a diet that is low in fiber.

Fiber works by increasing the amount of stool in the colon. The most well known fiber is bran. Common fiber supplements include Citrucel and Metamucil. Regular use of these high-fiber products is safe. They are also more effective when used regularly. Drink plenty of water when taking extra fiber.

Dietary fiber is a plant material that humans cannot digest. Fiber is made of large carbohydrate molecules that pass through the intestinal tract without being used by the body.

Fiber comes in two forms, based on whether it will dissolve in water. These are called soluble and insoluble fiber. Most experts believe that about 3/4 of fiber intake should be the insoluble form.

Water Soluble Fiber

ExamplesDietary Sources
Pectins, gums, & mucilagesfruits, vegetables, oats, bran, barley, legumes

Insoluble Fiber
ExamplesDietary Sources
Cellulose, hemicellulosevegetables, wheat bran, & whole grains

Fiber tends to bind water, which leads to softer stools and a more rapid passage of material through the intestines. This rapid transit may reduce the exposure of the bowel to toxic substances and improve overall bowel health. Fiber can also bind fats and cholesterol. As an added benefit, high fiber foods usually contain important vitamins and minerals.

Use of a High Fiber Diet
Most people in developed countries do not eat enough fiber. A healthy diet should include more than 25 grams of fiber each day, or 10-13 grams per 1,000 calories. Some experts believe that every extra gram of fiber eaten each day can lower the risk of heart disease by as much as five percent.

This diet is often recommended for preventing or treating the following:

General Guidelines
In general, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fiber. Check food labels of prepared products to see if there are at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Look for the term 'whole grain' as a major part of the food.

Raw foods tend to have more fiber than cooked, canned or pureed items. Even chopping and peeling skins removes some fiber. Dried fruits are especially high in fiber. Beans, black-eyed peas, brans and oatmeal are very high in fiber.

Unprocessed wheat bran can be added to many home meals and most baked foods. Bran is the outer layer of the wheat grain, and is present in 'whole grain' foods. Adding 2-3 teaspoons of bran per serving is a great way to increase the fiber content of casseroles, meat loaf, and baked goods. Whole grain flour has 6 times the fiber of standard, bleached flour. Oat bran can be used in place of about 1/3 of regular flour when baking.

Try adding nuts or bran to dairy foods such as yogurt or cottage cheese, which normally have very little fiber. Avoid white bread and flour pasta.

Change your diet slowly and drink plenty of fluids to allow the fiber to do its work. Rapid changes in the diet can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. A varied, high-fiber diet is much better than taking fiber supplements.

Example High-Fiber Diet
Breads and Grains
Eat at least 3, and as many as 10 servings each day of various whole grain foods. Any grain food should say 'whole grain' and contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

Examples include:
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal or oat bran
  • Rye bread
  • Wheat germ
  • Whole grain bagels
  • Whole grain breads
  • Whole grain muffins
  • Whole grain or bran cereals
  • Whole grain pita bread
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Whole wheat pasta

Eat at least 3-4 servings each day. Fruits are good, and dried fruits are especially high in fiber.

Examples include:
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear

Eat at least 3-5 servings per day, preferably raw and unpeeled

Examples include:
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Green pepper
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes with skin
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Meat substitutes:
Meat has no fiber and contains various amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats. There are many high-fiber foods that can partially or completely replace meat in the diet. Using several servings of meat substitutes each day will greatly increase total fiber intake.

Examples include:
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanuts
  • Pinto beans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans, but not tofu
  • Split peas
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Veggie burgers
  • Walnuts

  • Bean dip
  • Cookies made with oatmeal, whole wheat flour, fruit and nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Tortilla corn chips (baked)
  • Trail mix
  • Whole wheat pretzels

Ulcerative Colitis Liquid Diet

When symptoms of ulcerative colitis are bad, your doctor may recommend a liquid diet for a short period of time.

There are two main types of liquid diets for ulcerative colitis:

  • Clear Liquids
    • If tolerated for 24 hours than usually advanced to full liquids
  • Full Liquids

Clear Liquid Diet
Clear liquids are liquids you can see through. Clear liquids can also contain some nutrition, but are usually not adequate to support the body's energy needs for more than a few days. Clear liquids are easily absorbed by the intestines. Liquids remove the stress on the intestines.

Clear liquids include:
  • Bouillon soup
  • Coffee
  • Broth
  • Fruit juices without pulp
  • Gelatin
  • Popsicles (no pulp)
  • Soft drinks
  • Sports drinks (e.g. Gatorade)
  • Tea
  • Water

Full Liquid Diet
This type of diet lies between a solid diet and clear liquids. It is often used by someone who is tolerating clear liquids, but cannot tolerate solid food. A full liquid diet can safely sustain the body for long periods of time.

Full liquids include:
  • Cream of wheat
  • Fruit juices
  • Honey
  • Jelly
  • Milk, milkshakes and ice cream
  • Nutrition supplement drinks, such as Ensure or Boost
  • Pureed meats
  • Pureed vegetables
  • Soups without solids
  • Syrups
  • Vegetable juices
  • Yogurt and pudding

Ulcerative Colitis Ostomy Care

People with a long history of ulcerative colitis often require removal of the colon. This may result in an ileostomy, where the small bowel empties out through the abdominal wall.

Part of ostomy care includes learning how to fit and care for the drainage bag, or ostomy appliance. An ostomy nurse can help greatly in this process. Basic ostomy teaching includes daily activities, diet, exercise, stoma cleaning, appliance care and management of various problems.

Home care of and prevention of ostomy problems includes:

  • Diet: increased fluids and avoiding certain foods is usually helpful.
  • Ostomy appliance and skin care: daily care to protect the skin and stoma.
  • Prevention and treatment of bowel problems: constipation, diarrhea and excessive gas may require corrective measures.
  • Medications: the absorption of certain medications may be affected by an ostomy.

Ulcerative Colitis Taking Control

The successful treatment of ulcerative colitis requires your participation. Here are answers to some important questions.

Do you have control over your health and wellness?
Many people believe they have no control over their health and wellness. Many ignore personal health decisions or simply leave them to their doctors, relatives, or friends. In reality, you have the greatest potential to determine your relative health.

How is this possible? Do people really have control of their own health? The biggest killers are heart disease and cancer. Although many of these diseases seem to strike at random, our lifestyle choices greatly influence personal risk.

How can you participate in your health care?
To participate you must:

  • Learn to take responsibility for your own health.
  • Learn to partner with your doctor.
  • Learn how to make active decisions about your health.

How can you learn what you need to know?
  • Educate yourself.
  • Be skeptical: Learn to separate fact from fiction.
  • Billions of dollars are spent each year marketing dietary supplements, vitamins, and new medical treatments. Much of this is unnecessary and wasteful.
  • Be careful about where you get your health information.
    • Some of the best sources for health information on the web are professional societies and non-profit organizations.
    • Ask your doctor what he or she recommends.
  • Examine the credentials of the authors.
    • If you are reading about symptoms and disease, your best source is a licensed physician.
    • Pay attention to when the content was last updated.
    • Make sure the person is not just trying to sell you something.

Important questions you need to answer:
  • What things in your control can increase your risk for disease?
  • What can you do to decrease this risk?
  • What are vaccines and how can they help you?
  • How do your lifestyle choices increase your risk for disease?
  • How can you reduce stress?
  • What minor health problems can you treat at home?
  • When is a medical problem "serious"?
  • When should you call the doctor?

How can you find the right doctor?
Key points:
  • Everyone should have a primary care physician or family doctor. A primary physician is usually a family practitioner, internist, or pediatrician.
  • Establish a relationship in advance with your doctor.
  • Make sure you are comfortable with your primary care physician.
  • The internet contains many resources where you can do research to locate the doctor that is best for you.
  • You may wish to schedule a brief visit with the doctor to see if he or she is right for you.
    • Be open-minded, and allow your doctor to know you well. This will improve communication.

Important information you need to make your decision:
  • Physician credentials:
    • Internship and residency training is usually best from respected institutions, universities, and major hospitals.
    • Look for board certification in the specialty.
    • Ask about membership in medical societies.
  • Community and professional reputation are also important.
    • Are other patients happy with the doctor?
    • Has the doctor been disciplined by hospitals or agencies?
    • How long has the doctor been in practice?
    • In general, more than a few malpractice suits over a 5-10 year period should trigger caution.
  • Does the doctor communicate well? Are your questions answered during busy times?
  • Does the doctor welcome you to help make decisions about your care?
  • Is the doctor available when you need care?
  • What is the doctor's after-hours coverage?
  • Is he or she a member of a large group?
    • Do the doctors' cross-cover one another?
  • Where do they admit patients?

What is shared decision making?
You and your doctor must work together to jointly decide the best course of action to manage your health. This process is called "shared decision making". Your doctor becomes a guide and teacher and helps steer you toward the best treatment. Most doctors welcome this partnership. You must learn about your illnesses for shared decision-making to work.

For any recommended test, medication, or surgery, remember to ask:
  • How will this help me?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Is it covered by your insurance?
  • What are the potential side effects and risks?
  • What are my alternatives?

For tests, remember to ask:
  • Is it done in the office or at another facility?
  • Is it painful?
  • How will the results of this test influence my care?

For surgery or other procedures, remember to ask:
  • How long will it take to heal?
  • How many cases has the doctor done?
  • What would your doctor do if he or she were the patient?
  • Where is it done?
  • Who will perform it?
  • What are the doctor's qualifications?

What should you expect?
Shared decision making becomes impossible if you do not know what to expect from your doctor.

The American Hospital Association has published a "Patient's Bill of Rights" that is a good guide. It states that you have the right:
  • To be spoken to in words that you understand
  • To be told what's wrong with you
  • To know the benefits of any treatment and any alternatives
  • To know what a treatment or test will cost
  • To share in treatment decisions
  • To read your medical record
  • To refuse any medical procedure

What should you do before an office visit?
  • Bring all important medical information with you to the visit.
  • Make sure you can answer questions about the following:
    • Allergies and side effects to medicines
    • Current medicines you are taking. This includes herbs and vitamins. Make a list if necessary.
    • Insurance information
    • Marital and sexual history
    • Past injuries and hospital stays
    • Past medical problems
    • Past surgeries and operations
    • Pre-visit questionnaires
    • Use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs
    • Work history

What should you expect from the visit?
  • You should plan to wait if you go without an appointment. Emergencies or sick patients in the hospital may interrupt your doctor.
  • Bring along a book or toys for the kids. You may also have to wait during busy times.
  • Tell your doctor about your problem in a clear manner. Start from the beginning and go through each symptom as it appeared.
  • Before the visit, think about what makes your problem better or worse. Your doctor will probably ask you questions about this.
  • Most doctors ask many questions about unrelated symptoms. These questions help assure that there are no other problems that need attention.
  • Be sure to answer all questions truthfully. This includes sensitive questions about smoking, drug use, sexual activity, and work. Your history is the most important part of deciding what is wrong with you.
  • If you have any difficulty communicating your concerns, bring a family member or friend to assist in this task.
  • Talk to your doctor and do not leave the office without asking necessary questions. Your doctor can make you more comfortable if he or she understands your concerns.

What should you know about your medications?
Every year many people become ill because of problems with medications.

Remember to ask:
  • What side effects to expect.
  • What drug interactions are possible.
    • Find out if a new medicine reacts with those that you are taking now.
    • Many over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements can also cause serious side effects and drug interactions.
    • Some drugs interact with certain foods, vitamins, nicotine, and alcohol.
  • Make sure you can drive or operate machines safely while taking a medicine.
  • Ask your doctor how much a prescription costs.
    • Is there a less expensive option or a generic version?

What is a treatment plan?
A treatment plan is what you and your doctor decide to do for an illness. A treatment plan cannot be effective without your participation.

Three simple questions can help you get the most from your treatment plan:
  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do these things?

Other important points:
  • Be sure you understand your treatment plan.
  • Stick with the treatment plan and allow time for improvement.
  • Don't stop medicines when you feel better; check with your doctor first.
  • Call your doctor if your condition is becoming worse.
  • Your doctor should tell you what to expect and when to follow-up or call the office.

Ulcerative Colitis Warning Signs

Notify your doctor if you have ulcerative colitis and any of the following:

Continue to Ulcerative Colitis Outlook

Last Updated: Jan 6, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
Copyright DSHI Systems, Inc. Powered by: FreeMD - Your Virtual Doctor

PubMed Ulcerative Colitis References
  1. Hanauer SB. Review article: the long-term management of ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Oct;20 Suppl 4:97-101. [15352903]
  2. Loftus EV Jr, Kane SV, Bjorkman D. Systematic review: short-term adverse effects of 5-aminosalicylic acid agents in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Jan 15;19(2):179-89. [14723609]
  3. Rizzello F, Gionchetti P, Venturi A, Campieri M. Review article: medical treatment of severe ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Jun;17 Suppl 2:7-10. [12786606]
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