The digestive tract has many parts, any of which can become irritated or inflamed. Chronic inflammation and the development of sores in specific portions— the lining of the colon and the rectum—is known as ulcerative colitis. Bothell’s Dr. Nicole Anderson works with patients unsure of whether or not their digestive health problems are due to this condition by educating them on the symptoms that indicate ulcerative colitis, as well as on options for reducing the inflammation and testing to confirm a diagnosis and determine an underlying cause.
As with all patients who come to her for care, Dr. Anderson’s goal is to encourage long-term solutions—not quick fixes that relieve some of the symptoms but allow the actual problem to continue. Her approach is to examine all aspects of a patient’s life, since diet, habits, environmental factors, and many other elements influence the digestive system, which, in turn, impacts the brain, body, and overall health.
Like many digestive health conditions, the most obvious of the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis are in the gut: abdominal cramping and pain, diarrhea or constipation, and loss of appetite. This condition also tends to cause rectal pain, as well as rectal bleeding and bloody stools due to ulcers in the lining of the colon (large intestine) and rectum.
The abdominal pain caused by ulcerative colitis can come and go, so it may be mistaken for separate instances instead of an ongoing problem.
Inflammation in the colon and rectum can impact other parts of the body as well. Most notably, joints can become inflamed—a condition known as arthritis—and the ongoing immune response can lead to chronic fatigue.
Diagnosing ulcerative colitis is an important step to take, especially because patients with the condition are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer. Dr. Anderson can order various tests, which can look at everything from food allergies or sensitivity to bacteria levels in the gut to the physical appearance of the colon’s lining. With the resulting evidence, she can make a diagnosis and work on developing the ideal treatment plan from there.
Effectively treating ulcerative colitis is a two-part process: reducing inflammation to tame the painful symptoms that can disrupt daily life, and addressing the identified cause of the inflammation to minimize or prevent future problems related to the condition.
Dr. Anderson’s ulcerative colitis patients have had success with low-dose naltrexone (LDN), a medication that can be effective for managing symptoms of various inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease. LDN can reduce the inflammation, which allows the lining of the colon to heal, providing relief from active symptoms—a definite benefit for anyone dealing with the regular pain and bleeding of ulcerative.
The GI tract does have the capacity to heal with time, providing long-term relief. A long-term strategy may involve altering diet to see whether certain foods seem to be triggering symptoms, lowering stress, and more. Removing the cause of the inflammation may reduce or do away with the need to take medication and allow the body to heal itself.