Ulcerative Colitis

You have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes inflammation and ulcers in the rectum and colon. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The disease is often diagnosed by a special procedure called a colonoscopy. The symptoms often develop over time. There is no medicine that can cure ulcerative colitis. The goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms, and cause a remission.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Belly (abdominal) cramps and pain

  • Diarrhea, often bloody

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Rectal pain

  • Fever

  • Decreased appetite and weight loss

  • Low energy

  • Inflammation outside of the colon can occur and can cause pain or swelling in places such as the eyes, skin, and joints

Home care

No one knows what exactly causes IBD. The goal is to control and relieve the symptoms and prevent complications, so you can lead a full and active life. No medicine can cure the disease. In some cases, surgery to remove the whole colon can be healing. But surgery causes other side effects, so medicines are often preferred. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider.


Your diet did not cause your condition, but it can affect it. Unfortunately, there is no one diet that works for everyone, so you have to experiment. Below are some recommendations, but what works for you may be different. Keep a food log to figure out what you are sensitive to.

  • Eat more slowly. Eat smaller amounts at a time, but more often. Remember, you can always eat more, but can't eat less once you've eaten too much.

  • High-fiber foods are complicated. While they may help constipation, they can make bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhea worse.

  • Eat less sugar.

  • Try cutting out dairy products if you feel you are sensitive to lactose.

  • Try cutting out foods that are high in fat and fatty meats.

  • You can control bloating and passing excess gas. Be careful with "gassy" vegetables and fruits like beans, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

  • Be careful of carbonated drinks and fruit juices. They can make bloating and diarrhea worse.

  • Caffeine, alcohol, and stimulants may make symptoms worse.


Stress doesn't cause IBD. But it is a factor in flare-ups, and how you feel and react to your condition.

  • Look for things that seem to make your symptoms worse, such as stress and emotions.

  • Counseling can help you deal with stress. So can self-help treatments such as exercise, yoga, and meditation.

  • Depression can be a part of this illness and antidepressant medicine may be prescribed. This may actually help with diarrhea, constipation, and cramping, as well as symptoms of depression.

  • Lack of sleep can make symptoms seem worse.

  • Alcohol use can make symptoms worse.


Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines. Take them as directed. In most cases, you will need to take the medicines for the rest of your life. For acute flares, additional prescription medicines can be prescribed. Call your provider if you need these.

  • Ask your healthcare provider before taking any medicines for diarrhea.

  • Don't take anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxen.

  • Think about taking nutritional supplements. This is especially true if the diarrhea is prolonged, or you aren't eating, or you are losing weight.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Tell your provider if you lose more than 5 pounds over 3 to 6 months, and you aren't trying to lose weight.

If a stool sample was taken, or cultures were done, you will be told if they are positive, or if your treatment needs to be changed. You can call as directed for results.

If X-rays were done, a radiologist will look at them. You will be told if you need a change in treatment

It is very important to tell your healthcare provider if you plan to get pregnant, or find out you are pregnant. You will need to discuss your disease, medicines, and plan as early as possible and preferably before you conceive.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confusion

  • Very drowsy or trouble waking up

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Chest pain

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Bleeding from your rectum

  • Frequent diarrhea or belly pain that's not controlled by your medicine

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Nausea that does not get better, or repeated vomiting 

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