Ulcerative Colitis Help, Advice & Remedy Ideas from UCer

Colitis Inflammation

I thought it might be interesting to provide some simple inflammation information. Learning how it works is fairly confusing; wading through explanations of cell types, antigens, markers, molecules, interleukins etc. is a minefield. So I've literally only scratched the surface - which ironically, can cause inflammation!

Inflammation is important

It's annoying that something which causes Colitis sufferers so many different symptoms is a necessary response to the immune system. In fact, inflammation is one of the most important defence systems our body has, enabling it to heal wounds and infection.

Unfortunately, in the case of colitis, the inflammation becomes chronic because the body's defence system is fighting against itself. What triggers this response is a billion dollar question that's not yet understood and although certain suspects are high up the list, there are so many variables that a definitive answer may not be possible.

How it works

For many UCers inflammation isn't confined to the large colon. Many suffer from aching joints, sore eyes, swollen joints, itchy skin etc., all as a result of inflammation.

Inflammation leads to redness, pain and swelling:

  • Redness is caused when the tissue at the problem area becomes dilated from increase blood flow
  • Pain is a result of stimulated nerve endings as a result of chemicals released during the inflammatory process
  • Swelling is a result of the capillaries allowing more fluid into the tissue

All these responses are part of the body's natural defence system.

The inflammatory response to the immune system is triggered by damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens (anything that causes disease e.g. bacterium). The body begins to repair or fight the problem in similar ways, although different procedures happen depending on the cause e.g. a cut to the skin or a bacterial infection.

The body deals with a pathogen by sending more blood plasma to the problem area - the blood contains different white blood cells (B cells, T cells, NK cells - collectively known as Lymphocytes) equipped to learn what the pathogen is, produce antibodies, fight it and consume it.

A natural unnatural response

In reference to autoimmune diseases such as Ulcerative Colitis, an error is occuring in the natural immune system that causes inflammation to occur when there's actually nothing to defend the body against, and because the body has learnt to fight against itself, symptoms of inflammation become long term or 'chronic'.

The big problem with an autoimmune disease is that because we don't know what caused it, and continues to cause the symptoms, we don't know how to stop the natural inflammatory process from repeating itself. Research into this is ongoing, with various new theories, meds, studies etc. appearing throughout each year.

Leaky Gut Syndrome is an example of one approach against inflammation that has been succesful for some UCers.

Can we beat autoimmune inflammation?

For many UCers, the confusing search for what's triggering their inflammation goes on, for others the inflammation is so severe that there's no time to search for a solution - I wish there was for their sake.

The majority of Ulcerative Colitis sufferers use meds that suppress the inflammation when it occurs, or try to prevent it from occurring by attempting to suppress the cause over the long term (maintenance meds).

Some lucky UCers are able to find long term solutions that stop inflammation from occuring, whether by complete luck or through trial and error e.g. my friend who discovered by chance that avoiding acidic low pH foods almost eliminated his flare-ups completely. I'll follow that sentence with the usual Colitis mantra; unfortunately because of the number of variables connected with Colitis, one approach will not work for everyone.

However, with each passing day, Medical Scientists are learning more about cells and what triggers the response that causes inflammation. Because of the complexity of UC and it's many variables, it's thought that eventually research could lead to sub-classification of Ulcerative Colitis with individualised, pathway-targeted treatments that offer the maximum benefit to patients.

Until then, my red cabbage juicing and oral mesalazine will have to do!