Alternative Medicine for Ulcerative Colitis

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Ulcerative colitis is a painful disorder that involves sores in the colon. There are numerous proposed alternative therapies that might help a person deal with this condition that this lesson outlines for you.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Have you ever had a sore on your skin? It was probably painful and a bit bloody, right? Well imagine something quite similar but in your colon. Ulcerative colitis is a disorder where the colon ('col-') becomes inflamed ('-itis') and ulcerated, or filled with sore-like defects. And just like a sore on the skin is painful and can bleed, ulcerative colitis can cause abdominal pain and lead to the passage of blood with a person's stool.

Anyways, this lesson isn't about the details of this condition though. It's more about the alternative therapies some people believe might help with ulcerative colitis. Makes sure to talk to your doctor first about them before starting, stopping or changing any therapy.

Herbal Medicine

Let's meet Bob. Bob has ulcerative colitis, and he is a big fan of alternative medicine. He is particularly interested in using natural herbs to help him with his ulcerative colitis. One of his favorites is Aloe vera, a kind of tropical plant you've surely heard of. It's believed that Aloe vera juice can have anti-inflammatory effects. Remember that ulcerative colitis involves a lot of inflammation, so this is good.

Another one Bob frequently turns to is Indian frankincense, which is derived from the resin of a plant. One particular compound found in this plant, called Boswellic acid, might have anti-inflammatory properties as well.

And who doesn't love licorice!? Bob sure does! Licorice might help regulate the immune system. This could help improve the health of the inner lining of his colon, the one that is so painful and inflamed in ulcerative colitis.

Some other herbal remedies that might help people with ulcerative colitis include:

  • Devil's claw
  • Slippery elm
  • Tormentil
  • Mexican yam
  • Curcumin
  • Wheat grass juice
  • Fenugreek

Bob doesn't necessarily use them all at once but he did want to make sure you guys learned about them for your reference.

Diet & Others

Bob, however, doesn't put all of his eggs in one basket. He tries different ways of managing his ulcerative colitis. First, he watches his diet very carefully. Unlike a lot of people's breakfasts, which include coffee and milk, Bob's breakfast has no milk and no coffee. He aims to eat a low fat and high fiber diet. However, if he experiences flare-ups of his condition, he tries to avoid raw fruits and vegetables as they can irritate his colon.

If he ever feels too much cramping, Bob reaches for peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsule form. Peppermint oil found in an enteric-coated capsule can make it safely past the stomach's acidic juices and into the intestines ('entero-') virtually untouched. The coating is like a protective shield for the peppermint oil.

Bob is also very aware that the stresses of life can make his ulcerative colitis symptoms worse. So he does two important things. First, he practices yoga, breathing exercises and meditation to help him relax. He even goes to see an acupuncturist every now and then for stress relief.

Secondly, Bob knows that internal conflict, such as emotional conflicts, might worsen his symptoms as well. So, he goes to a psychotherapist for cognitive behavioral therapy. This kind of talk therapy can help a person better understand their negative thinking and to learn how to better deal with it. Again, this could help minimize Bob's stress and thus ameliorate his symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

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