When the lining of the colon and rectum are affected by chronic inflammatory disease, the condition may progress to ulcerative colitis. Colitis can cause bloody stools and diarrhea as small abscesses and ulcers in the colon and rectum flare up from time to time. Many patients with ulcerative colitis experience periods of flare-ups followed by periods of remission that can last from several weeks to several years. The cause of colitis is still unknown but many experts believe it can be traced to an abnormal response of the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract.

Surgical Intervention for Colitis

Treatment for colitis can include drug therapy, dietary modifications, surgery, or a combination of these three treatment options. It is critical for patients who are experiencing symptoms to seek treatment as soon as possible because inflammation can spread to other parts of the body. Medications, such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressants may help to relieve symptoms and heal some of the inflammation in the bowels. Eating a diet high in protein and low in fiber can also alleviate symptoms.

Surgery for colitis involves removing the entire colon, or both the colon and the rectum. If the rectum is removed, we need to create an alternative path for waste to move out of the body. Surgical procedures include:

• Proctocolectomy with ilesotmy – a small opening is made in the abdominal wall where the tip of the lower small intestine (ileum) is attached to the opening so that waste can exit the body
• Ileorectal anastomosis – the rectum is left intact and the lower small intestine is attached to the rectum instead, allowing the patient to pass stool normally. This procedure typically requires ongoing medical treatment.
• Ileoanal anastomosis – the outer muscles of the rectum are preserved and the lower small intestine is attached to the inside of the rectum to form a pouch that holds fecal material.

Alternatives to Surgery for Colitis

Some natural remedies and healthy lifestyle habits can reduce symptoms of colitis so that surgery may not be necessary. Options include:

• Eating smaller meals throughout the day to reduce abdominal discomfort
• Taking probiotics regularly to ensure there is enough ‘healthy bacteria’ in the gut
• Reducing stress through the practice of yoga, meditation, and tai chi
• Eating foods high in soluble fiber to reduce the risk of constipation
• Taking psyllium seed as a laxative to support healthy bowel movements
• Visiting an acupuncturist regularly to relieve symptoms

Learn more about treatment options for colitis by scheduling your appointment at our Los Angeles or Glendale office today.