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5 Steps to Living Well With Ulcerative Colitis

How taking a proactive approach can help you get more out of treatment.

5 Steps to Living Well With Ulcerative Colitis

There is no cure for ulcerative colitis (UC), but there are treatments that can help control inflammation, ease symptoms, and address or prevent complications. Another focus of treatment is improving quality of life. UC and other forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—like Crohn’s disease—can prevent a person from doing many things and interfere with normal life in many ways.

If you are living with UC, the following strategies may help you take a proactive approach to managing the condition and enjoying the things you enjoy.

Learn everything you can
Educating yourself about UC can help you make more informed decisions about your treatment. A great place to start learning are your healthcare providers. Treatment for UC is typically overseen by a gastroenterologist, but it may also include other providers.

Because every case of UC is different, your healthcare team is your best source of information. If you have a question about your diagnosis, ask. You can also ask if there are any patient education materials that you can take with you, such as pamphlets or patient brochures.

Find emotional support 
Coping with a chronic medical condition can be difficult. A disease like UC can impact your quality of life and your sense of self-esteem. Family members and friends can be good sources of emotional support and understanding. Many people living with a chronic illness also find it helpful to work with a counselor or therapist. Because the only people who really know what it’s like to live with UC are other people who have the disease, consider joining a support group.

Keep a journal
Keeping a record of what you eat, what you do, how you feel, and your symptoms can help you identify triggers and patterns in symptoms. Food is one of the most important things you can record—write down what you eat, at what times, and the portion sizes.

Writing down a summary of your day—where you went and what you did—can also help identify triggers. Pay attention to things like your mood, if you felt stressed, and your energy levels.

Also keep track of any information you can about symptoms—when a symptom started, the severity, and anything you did to alleviate it. While this can seem like a bit of work, this information can be very helpful to you and your healthcare providers.

Plan ahead
As mentioned above, your quality of life should be an important focus of treatment for IBD. Planning ahead can help you continue to enjoy things like exercise, hobbies, and social engagements. Being prepared can help put your mind more at ease while you are out. This may include scheduling an outing during a time of day when you’re typically feeling good or taking some time to relax before going out. While you’re out, planning ahead may involve knowing where the restrooms are and having an emergency kit ready in case symptoms occur.

Follow your treatment plan
UC tends to follow a cycle of remission and relapse—symptoms go away at times, then flare up at other times. It is important to follow your treatment plan, even during those times when you are feeling good. This means taking medications as prescribed, keeping your appointments with your healthcare providers, avoiding triggers, and trying to live an overall healthy lifestyle.

Medically reviewed in November 2020.

Sources:
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. "Ulcerative Colitis Treatment Options."
Simon R. Knowles, Laurie Keefer, et al. "Quality of Life in Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analyses—Part II." Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 2018. Vol. 24, No. 5.
T. Hibi, T. Ishibashi, et al. "Ulcerative Colitis: Disease Burden, Impact on Daily Life, and Reluctance to Consult Medical Professionals: Results from a Japanese Internet Survey." Inflammatory Intestinal Diseases, 2020. Vol. 5, No. 1.
Berna Nilgun Ozgursoy Uran, Yasemin Yıldırım, Fisun Senuzun Aykar and Belkıs Unsal. "Importance of Web-Based Education in the Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease." Journal of Nursing and Practice, 2018. Vol. 2, No. 1.
Subrata Ghosh. "Multidisciplinary teams as standard of care in inflammatory bowel disease." Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 2013. Vol. 27, No. 4.
Cedars Sinai. "A Patient's Guide to IBD."
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. "Mental Health."
Randi Opheim, Bjorn Moum, et al. "Self-esteem in patients with inflammatory bowel disease." Quality of Life Research, 2020. Vol. 29, No. 7.
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. "Find a Support Group."
Crohn's and Colitis Canada. "Food for Thought."
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. "Food."
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. "Navigating Daily Life with IBD."
Crohn's & Colitis Australia. "Understanding the remission and relapse cycle in Crohn’s disease."
Webber Chan, Andy Chen, et al. "Medication adherence in inflammatory bowel disease." Intestinal Research, 2017. Vol. 15, No. 4.

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