Treating Ulcerative Colitis

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9 Ways to Improve Quality of Life With Ulcerative Colitis

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Jennifer Larson on April 9, 2021
  • Smiling man and women enjoying the outdoors
    Resolve to improve your quality of life with ulcerative colitis.
    How do you cope with living with the chronic inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis (UC)? For many people, one of the biggest challenges is not letting it detract from their quality of life. But studies show many people with UC experience symptoms and flare-ups that do get in the way of their activities of daily living. So, the next challenge becomes how to overcome that. You might start with some of these tips for ulcerative colitis management to help you gain the upper hand on your condition.
  • Cropped image of older Caucasian male with hands crossed around abdomen
    1. Work on accepting your diagnosis.
    Some people only have mild symptoms with a minimal impact on their daily activities. Others, however, may struggle with more severe or more frequent symptoms, like abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and rectal bleeding that interferes with their ability to work, play, and live in a “normal” manner. It may be challenging, especially if you have a more severe case, but finding a way to accept the fact that you have this chronic condition may help you move forward. Acknowledge that it’s not fair, and accept that you have the power to let your attitude drive how you cope. Then you can begin developing strategies to help you manage.
  • Female doctor speaking with unseen female patient about prescription
    2. Consider adjusting your medication.
    Research shows many people with ulcerative colitis don’t think their medications alone are sufficient to help them manage their condition. So, they tend to develop some work-arounds or adaptations to get by. But that doesn’t mean you should just assume your meds can’t be tweaked or even changed altogether. For example, if you’ve been taking an anti-inflammatory drug but it doesn’t seem to be working as well as it should, ask your doctor about trying a different one. This also applies if you’re experiencing some side effects from a corticosteroid that you don’t like. Or maybe you’re a candidate for an immunosuppressant drug or a biologic. Talk to your doctor about the possible options, including the benefits and the downsides.
  • Young Caucasian girl with parents in kitchen as mother chops strawberries
    3. Change your diet.
    You have the power to change your diet. Keep notes or use a diary or app to track which foods seem to trigger flare-ups. Then you can either eliminate them from your diet and find replacements, or eat them sparingly. For many people, dairy products like milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt are a no-go. For some, high-fiber foods can trigger episodes of bloating, pain, and diarrhea. Talk to your doctor about how to get enough dietary fiber and nutrition without making your symptoms worse. You might also want to consider what you’re drinking, too. Alcoholic drinks might need to be relegated to the “no” list if they stimulate your intestines and lead to diarrhea.
  • Young woman doing leg stretches on yoga mat
    4. Manage your stress.
    Is stress one of your triggers? If so, you’re not alone. Life is stressful enough, and when you add in ulcerative colitis, it can become a little overwhelming. Some people find exercise relaxes them, so they turn to walking, swimming, or yoga. Others find meditation or relaxation practices are more effective at helping them drive their stress levels down. Whatever works for you, go with that. It may also help you keep a more positive outlook on life.
  • All her hard work will pay off in the end
    5. Explore adjustments to your work life.
    You may need to work full-time to pay the bills. If your ulcerative colitis makes it hard to do that, explore some possible changes. What do you need to be able to do in order to keep working? If you tend to develop fatigue as a result of your condition, can you adjust your work hours so you work during the times when you have the most energy? Is it possible to delegate some tasks to colleagues or others at your place of employment? Can you ask for certain accommodations, like a cubicle or office that’s close to a restroom, in case you have a bout of diarrhea during working hours?
  • couple-looking-at-restaurant-menu
    6. Plan your excursions carefully.
    Parents who are toilet training their toddlers often joke that they plan every trip with their children around toilet access. You may need to embrace this strategy, too. The reality is sometimes you may need to run for the toilet. It’s probably best to avoid going places without an available restroom. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay home if you don’t want to. You can develop a repertoire of favorite places to eat or socialize where you know you can easily get to the toilet–and avoid having an accident.
  • Close-up of two African American people holding hands to comfort each other
    7. Express your need for support.
    You know that old expression “no man is an island”? You can try managing ulcerative colitis all by yourself, but wouldn’t it be easier if you asked your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or other people in your life for some help? Maybe you could benefit from some moral support, a little bit of cheerleading, and reassurance. Or maybe you could use some help in accommodations like finding the closest restroom or serving foods that won’t trigger a flare-up. You might also ask for understanding when you really can’t go out or do the things you’d like to do. With support from your network, you might feel a little less alone, and your community may be grateful to know some practical and meaningful ways to help you out.
  • Serene man sleeping in bed in the morning
    8. Address your sleep situation.
    A lack of sleep can make everything seem much worse than it really is. That goes double for people with ulcerative colitis, who seem to be predisposed to sleep disturbances. A fragmented sleep pattern may actually make gastrointestinal disorders like ulcerative colitis worse. And ulcerative colitis may disrupt your circadian rhythm, creating a loop of fatigue and troublesome UC symptoms. Some research suggests that a melatonin supplement might help on the sleep front, so consider asking your doctor if this is worth a try.
  • Senior couple sitting on front step potting flowers
    9. Give it some time.
    Some research suggests it can take a while for people to find what works for their UC. Eventually, after they’ve tried various strategies for coping with their symptoms, they will likely hit upon a combination that works well enough for them to feel reasonably okay. If you’re still struggling, that’s alright. It may take you some time to figure out what you need, and it may take a while for you to find some sense of peace–or as much as you can. Be patient, lean on your support network, and let your doctor know how you’re feeling. You’re not in this alone, and you will find relief.
Living With Ulcerative Colitis | Managing Ulcerative Colitis

About The Author

Jennifer Larson has more than 15 years of professional writing experience with a specialization in healthcare. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and memberships in the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Education Writers Association.
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  6. Swanson GR, et al. Sleep disturbances and inflammatory bowel disease: a potential trigger for disease flare?. Expert Review of Clinical Immunology. 2011;7(1):29-36.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 31
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