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5 Ways to Approach Ulcerative Colitis

Written by Dr. Edward Group Founder
A board with acupuncture needles.

Considering that 18% of persons with ulcerative colitis suffer from an active form of the disease, and 30% of those patients need a colostomy within 10 years of diagnosis, it's no surprise that treatment can be quite challenging. [1] Factors such as the timing of identification, environmental elements influencing the colon, and side effects have lead researchers and doctors to look beyond the standard protocols to alternative approaches. Let's take a look at five ways currently being used to manage this unfortunate concern.

How to Manage Ulcerative Colitis

1. Drugs

Mainstream treatment of colitis uses a variety of drugs, mainly corticosteroids, depending on the severity of the disease and the responsiveness of the patient. With the use of drugs, about 30% of patients experience remission at 52 weeks of treatment. [2] [3]

2. Probiotics

Probiotics have captured a lot of attention as a therapeutic option for ulcerative colitis. [8] Results of probiotic supplementation seem to prove favorable. [9] Adding probiotics by introducing kombucha, fermented sauerkraut, or a probiotic supplement can go beyond protecting the colon, with plenty of research showing positive effects on digestion and immune system health.

3. Fecal Matter Transfer (FMT)

The idea behind this approach involves relocating healthy colonic bacteria from a donor host to a patient. In other words, the technique essentially transfers fecal matter from one person to another. Yuck, right? Well, a study looking at the effectiveness of this procedure noted success in 1 out of 5 patients, or 20%. [6] [7] For many, probiotics are a more preferred way to get healthy bacterial colonies into the gastrointestinal tract.

4. Surgery

The most severe cases do not respond to drugs and may advance the concern, even to colorectal cancer. Surgery remains a regular practice for non-responsive patients. Some doctors have introduced a three-stage surgery for active ulcerative colitis; the standard procedure involves only two stages. Researchers recently evaluated both approaches and found the three-stage procedure to be note quite as safe as previously assumed. [4] Patients undergoing the traditional two-stage surgery had no difference in abscess formation or pouch failure (a surgical creation to replace the colon and rectum). [5]

5. Acupuncture

The ancient practice of acupuncture has shown promise for ulcerative colitis, with numerous studies citing its effect on easing the severity of the disease. One study looked at moxibustion application (the heating of an acupuncture site) in tandem with a traditional ulcerative colitis drug. Patients with a mild to moderate condition experience much greater relief and symptom reduction than those who did not receive the moxibustion application. Another study examined the use of Kuijiening plaster to treat the spleen-kidney yang deficiency associated with ulcerative colitis and found that patients responded significantly better than those only receiving the standard drug. [10] [11] The continued success of holistic treatments suggests the need for a broader consideration of the disease and its approaches.

Ulcerative Colitis: A Look to the Future

References (11)
  1. Nieminen U, Jussila A, Nordling S, Mustonen H, Färkkilä MA. Inflammation and disease duration have a cumulative effect on the risk of dysplasia and carcinoma in IBD: a case-control observational study based on registry data. Int J Cancer. 2014 Jan 1;134(1):189-96. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28346.
  2. Mehta SJ, Silver AR, Lindsay JO. Review article: strategies for the management of chronic unremitting ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Jul;38(2):77-97. doi: 10.1111/apt.12345.
  3. Reinisch W, Sandborn WJ, Panaccione R, Huang B, Pollack PF, Lazar A, Thakkar RB. 52-week efficacy of adalimumab in patients with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis who failed corticosteroids and/or immunosuppressants. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2013 Jul;19(8):1700-9. doi: 10.1097/MIB.0b013e318281f2b7.
  4. Hicks CW, Hodin RA, Bordeianou L. Possible overuse of 3-stage procedures for active ulcerative colitis. JAMA Surg. 2013 Jul;148(7):658-64. doi: 10.1001/2013.jamasurg.325.
  5. Dayan B, Turner D. Role of surgery in severe ulcerative colitis in the era of medical rescue therapy. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Aug 7;18(29):3833-8. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i29.3833.
  6. Khan N, Abbas AM, Almukhtar RM, Cole EB, Khan AN. Adherence and Efficacy of Screening for Low Bone Mineral Density Among Ulcerative Colitis Patients Treated With Corticosteroids. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014 Jan 28. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2013.486.
  7. Angelberger S, Reinisch W, Makristathis A, Lichtenberger C, Dejaco C, Papay P, Novacek G, Trauner M, Loy A, Berry D. Temporal bacterial community dynamics vary among ulcerative colitis patients after fecal microbiota transplantation. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013 Oct;108(10):1620-30. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2013.257.
  8. Kruis W. Probiotics. Dig Dis. 2013;31(3-4):385-7. doi: 10.1159/000354706.
  9. De Greef E, Vandenplas Y, Hauser B, Devreker T, Veereman-Wauters G. Probiotics and IBD. Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2013 Mar;76(1):15-9.
  10. Zhang LC, Zhang S, Zhong W, Long JX, Li XN, Chen LS. Observation on clinical effect of ZHUANG medicine mediated thread moxibustion combined with medication for patients with ulcerative colitis. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2013 Oct;38(5):399-402.
  11. Huang L, Cai Z, Zhu Y, Wan H. Treatment of ulcerative colitis with spleen and kidney yang deficiency by kuijiening plaster: a randomized controlled study. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2013 Jul;33(7):577-81.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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