Usually, an inflammation of the colon (also referred to as the large intestine) is known as colitis. It is a disease that has varied symptoms in different people. Colitis can be of different types such as:
- Microscopic colitis
- Ischemic colitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease colitis (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- Chemical colitis
- Pseudomembranous colitis
- Infectious colitis such as food poisoning, and infections caused by bacteria or parasites
Depending on the type of colitis you have, your symptoms can vary. To pick the right treatment for colitis, it is crucial to get an accurate diagnosis. Here is a list of some colitis symptoms that will help you understand when you should consult a healthcare professional.
Symptoms of colitis
According to various medical study reports, most of the times, colitis is associated with diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Pain caused by inflammation
The muscle layers undergo intermittent spasms due to colon inflammation. This intermittent spasm causes cramp-like or colicky pain, which comes and goes.
Usually, the affected person feels this pain in the lower abdomen. However, you might feel this pain at any point along the course of the colon.
Due to the colitis, the body is unable to reabsorb water properly because any ingested food or drinks move through the colon rapidly as the muscles cannot contract in their regular pattern. All of this leads to watery diarrhea.
If the colon lining breaks down and becomes inflamed, the affected person might experience bleeding. In the case of ulcerative colitis, small ulcers form and cause bleeding.
Pain caused by diarrhea
Often, the pain caused by colitis that involves the distal colon (sigmoid colon and rectum) increases gradually preceding a bowel movement. The pain might subside after the diarrheal bowel movement, but it can return with the next diarrheal episode. Also, the affected person may get the urgent feeling of wanting to go to the loo.
As mentioned earlier, depending on the cause of colitis, the symptoms may include:
- Dehydration: Other symptoms associated with dehydration include lightheadedness, decreased output of urine, and weakness.
Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may lead an individual to exhibit symptoms that are not related to the colon. These symptoms include:
- Iritis (eye inflammation)
- Joint swelling
- Pyoderma gangrenosum (skin inflammation)
- Aphthous ulcer (canker sores)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention to get the right treatment for colitis.
Treatment methods for colitis
The treatment methods for colitis mostly depend on the causes. In some cases, a little more than symptomatic care is required, which includes various medications to manage the pain and clear fluids to help in resting the bowel. However, some patients need IV fluids along with other interventions to deal with the illness.
Ischemic colitis: Initially, the treatments for this type of colitis is supportive. To prevent dehydration and to rest the bowel, the use of intravenous fluids is suggested by doctors. In the worst cases, surgery may be required to get rid of the necrotic parts of the bowel along with other portions that have no blood supply.
Infections: With time and the help of the IV fluids, one can deal with viral infections. Bacterial infections such as salmonella will go away without any antibiotic therapy. However, for the treatment of colitis caused by bacterial infections such as Clostridium difficile, the use of antibiotics is required.
Abdominal pain and diarrhea: Along with a clear fluid diet, some medications are required to treat colitis. However, getting a doctor’s guidance before taking medications is advisable.
IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease): Initially, anti-inflammatory medications are used to deal with colitis caused by IBD. However, if these medications are not making a difference, one can take medicines to suppress the immune system. In the worst case scenario, surgery might be useful.
Role of a healthy diet in treating colitis
Consuming a healthy diet plays a significant role in the treatment of colitis as it eases the flares and reduces the symptoms. Here is a list of foods that you should try avoiding when you have colitis.
- Fried or greasy foods
- Fiber-rich foods like nuts, corn, seeds, and popcorn
- If you are lactose intolerant, it is better to avoid milk or dairy products that contain lactose. Lactose-free forms of products like ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. are also available these days. It is better to eat these types of foods.
Even though several treatment options for colitis are available, it is always better to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place. To do so, you need to keep a close eye on health conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol level, etc. Also, it is advisable to quit smoking as it can lead to several complications.