How to Heal Gastritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

A general term, gastritis refers to a group of conditions that result in inflammation of the stomach lining. With knowledge of the various causes, symptoms, and available treatments, it’s possible to take control of the situation and both treat and heal gastritis.

Gastritis is a condition that leads to inflammation of the stomach lining. Episodes of acute gastritis may occur suddenly and last only a short time, while chronic gastritis may last weeks, months, or even years. While most cases of gastritis aren’t serious, the condition can occasionally lead to complications, including peptic ulcers and even stomach cancer. But with knowledge of the various causes, symptoms, and available treatments, it’s possible to take control of the situation and both treat and heal gastritis.

Causes of Gastritis

Gastritis can be caused by a number of factors, including damage to the lining of the stomach due to bacteria or viruses or thinning due to age. But by far, the majority of cases are caused by a type of bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori, or H pylori for short.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately two-thirds of the world’s population suffers from H pylori infection. Additional risk factors associated with gastritis include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Bile reflux

Signs, Symptoms, and Potential Complications of Gastritis

Interestingly, many people with gastritis never have any symptoms. In addition, people who are infected with H pylori in childhood may not have any symptoms until they reach adulthood. However, if gastritis symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain or burning
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upper abdominal fullness after eating

Symptoms of gastritis may be mild or severe and, if left untreated, can sometimes result in serious complications. Some of these include:

  • Peptic ulcers: Both NSAIDs and H pylori increase the risk of developing duodenal and stomach ulcers.
  • Atrophic gastritis: A complication especially of chronic gastritis, atrophic gastritis leads to destruction of the stomach’s mucosa and can develop into gastric cancer.
  • Pernicious anemia: Gastritis caused by autoimmune conditions can lead to loss of the stomach cells that help the body absorb vitamin B12, which results in impaired production of red blood cells.

If your symptoms don’t improve or worsen or you develop any shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness, vomiting with blood, blood in the stool, or black, tarry stool, see your health care provider right away. These are all symptoms of bleeding in the stomach and require immediate medical attention.

Tips to improve gastritis

Diagnosing Gastritis

While your health care provider will probably suspect gastritis after speaking with you about your medical history and conducting a physical exam, they may also choose to perform additional tests to determine the exact cause and help guide treatment. These tests may include:

  • H pylori testing: H pylori bacteria can be detected using breath, blood, or stool tests. Your health care provider may choose any of these, though the fecal antigen test has been found to be the most accurate.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series: To perform an upper GI series, you’ll be asked to drink a chalky powder (barium) mixed with water and then undergo an X-ray. The barium coats your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine and absorbs the X-rays, making the organs of your upper digestive tract easier to see.
  • Endoscopy: An endoscopy uses a flexible tube with a lens, passed down the throat, to identify signs of inflammation in the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. If any abnormalities are found, biopsies (tissue samples) may be taken for laboratory analysis.

Treatment to Heal Gastritis

Once the diagnosis of gastritis has been confirmed, treatment will be tailored to the specific cause, though therapy should address any symptoms that are present as well.

In the case of pernicious anemia resulting from atrophic gastritis, B12 injections may be administered to help prevent complications of B12 deficiency.

Symptomatic treatment may also be provided in the form of medications designed to decrease the level of acid produced by the stomach, thereby helping to promote healing of the inflamed stomach lining. These types of medications include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), H2 blockers, and antacids, such as:

  • Omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac)
  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Maalox

When addressing the cause of gastritis, treatment may be as simple as removing the offending agent, such as alcohol, or, in the case of NSAIDs, recommending a dose reduction or change to another type of medication.

If you’re found to have H pylori infection, you’ll be treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria and decrease your risk of developing complications such as peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. Several natural remedies have also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of H pylori:

  • ProbioticsAccording to a study published in Clinical Microbiology Reviews, probiotics may be helpful in treating H pylori due to their activation of the immune system and direct competition with the pathogen.
  • Green teaStudies have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of green tea, along with its lower levels of caffeine, may reduce the risk of developing gastritis by 40%.
  • Broccoli sprouts: A study found that daily intake of broccoli sprouts for 2 months reduces H pylori colonization in mice and decreases the risk of complications in both mice and humans.
  • Honey: A study found that honey decreases stomach acid production and aids in the healing of the stomach lining.
  • Nigella sativa (black seed): A study found that a mixture of black seed and honey was effective in treating both H pylori infection and dyspepsia.

While gastritis caused by H pylori, NSAIDs, or alcohol may be rather easily treated with the use of antibiotics (in the case of H pylori) or withdrawal of the offending agent (in the case of NSAIDs and alcohol), the treatment of gastritis resulting from other causes may be more complex. Cases resulting from stress or autoimmune disorders, for example, may benefit from equal parts healing and therapeutic prevention.

The Best Gastritis Diet

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), research has not been able to find a significant connection between a person’s diet and nutritional status and the development or prevention of gastritis.

However, the Mayo Clinic advises several changes to the diets of people suffering from gastritis. These include eating frequent, small meals and avoiding fried, fatty, acidic, or spicy foods.

Other sources suggest that foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to support immune and digestive system health may be helpful in fighting both the underlying causes and inflammation that characterize gastritis.

When choosing foods to aid in recovery from gastritis and help prevent its return, look for foods high in fiber, lean protein, antioxidants, probiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids. And be sure to avoid substances that irritate your sensitive stomach lining, such as carbonated beverages, coffee, and processed foods.

Tips to improve gastritis

Amino Acids for Gastritis

There’s also a growing body of evidence indicating that the use of certain supplemental amino acids may be beneficial in the treatment of gastritis.

For example, studies have shown that a combination of zinc and carnosine peptide—a substance derived from the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine—is effective against H pylori and has the ability to repair the stomach’s damaged mucosal lining. One study also found that these effects were perfectly achievable with the use of over-the-counter zinc carnosine supplements.

Another study found that the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC) leads to improvements in both symptomatology and endoscopic findings in patients with chronic atrophic gastritis.

In addition, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that the amino acid glutamine has the ability to decrease the inflammation and mucosal abnormalities associated with H pylori infection.

The pain and discomfort of gastritis, when they occur, are never pleasant and shouldn’t be ignored. But with appropriate treatment and the help of your health care provider—who can provide you with tips on everything from reducing stress to eradicating H pylori and supporting the body’s healing process with proper nutrition—symptoms can be alleviated and healing achieved.

What Is Spondyloarthritis? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Spondyloarthritis is a group of diseases that cause arthritis and inflammation. There’s no cure for spondyloarthritis, but identifying the symptoms and finding the right treatment plan can help you lead an active and productive life.

Spondyloarthritis is a group of diseases that cause arthritis. You also may hear it called spondyloarthropathy or the abbreviated SpA. It is unique from other kinds of arthritis because it also causes inflammation in areas called entheses where your ligaments and tendons attach to your bones. Unfortunately, there is no cure for spondyloarthritis, but recognizing the symptoms early and finding a treatment plan that works well for you can help you continue to lead an active and productive life.

What Is Spondyloarthritis?

Spondyloarthritis is an overarching name for several inflammatory rheumatic diseases that are the cause of arthritis. Arthritis often affects your joints, and spondyloarthritis causes inflammation within the tendons and ligaments of your bones, referred to as entheses. You most commonly see teenagers and people in their early 20s, particularly men, affected by spondyloarthritis.

The two types of spondyloarthritis are determined by the parts of your body that are targeted. Peripheral spondyloarthritis affects the peripheral joints in your legs and arms, while axial spondyloarthritis appears in your spine and the joints of your pelvis (called the sacroiliac joints). This disease can go beyond these areas, however, causing inflammation in your GI tract, your eyes, and other connective tissues throughout the body.

Since spondyloarthritis is a larger group of inflammatory diseases, several subcategories exist. These include:

  • Psoriatic arthritis: You can develop this type of arthritis if you have psoriasis, a skin disease in which skin cells build up and create scaly, dry patches. Your immune system is triggered by psoriasis and the on switch is never turned off, causing it to attack your skin and joints. This inflammation leads to joint swelling, pain, and general stiffness in your spine, feet, and hands.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis: One of the most common types of spondylitis, the stiffness and pain associated with this kind of arthritis target your ligaments and joints in your spine. Most people experience low back pain that can extend to the neck, chest, and upper portions of the back. If the condition worsens, the bones and joints can fuse together, affecting your spine’s shape and posture.
  • Enteropathic arthritis: This type of arthritis often appears in conjunction with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • Reactive arthritis: Previously referred to as Reiter’s syndrome, this type of arthritis usually stems from a urinary tract infection or intestinal infection. As your immune system is activated, additional inflammation can occur in the mouth, urinary tract, eyes, and digestive tract, and arthritis can take hold in other joints and ligaments.
  • Undifferentiated spondyloarthritis: This type of spondyloarthritis is characterized by a cluster of symptoms that doesn’t fit neatly into a specific spondyloarthritis diagnosis.

Spondyloarthritis Causes

Spondyloarthritis and its subcategories of arthritis seem to run in families, indicating that genes may play a role in increasing your risk. Researchers continue to examine spondyloarthritis and further expand upon the genes they’ve identified that are associated with the condition. In particular the gene HLA-B27 has been pinpointed for its tie to ankylosing spondylitis—it’s been shown that people who have this gene have a higher risk of the disease.

Spondyloarthritis Symptoms

Signs of spondyloarthritis most commonly develop in two phases, with pain, inflammation, and stiffness being followed by the breaking down of your bones. Over time, your spine can become deformed, change shape, and lose flexibility. Spondyloarthritis can also affect other joints, and you may feel symptoms in your arms, legs, hands, feet, shoulders, and hips. Symptoms do vary from person to person and are often distinct to the type you have.

What is spondyloarthritis? It is a group of diseases that cause arthritis and inflammation.

Spondyloarthritis Diagnosis

The sooner your condition is correctly diagnosed, the better the outcome and the more effectively your symptoms can be managed. When visiting with your doctor, he or she will discuss your family and medical history, conduct a physical exam, and record any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Many times an X-ray may be taken of the particular area causing you issues. This will allow the doctor to see if any bone changes have occurred and the stage of the disease. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may also be ordered to allow for a closer view of your joints and their condition. If your family history has any red flags, blood tests may be used to try and identify the HLA-B27 gene.

Spondyloarthritis Treatment

There is unfortunately no way to cure spondyloarthritis, but if you are diagnosed your treatment plan will incorporate pain management, maintaining joint and spinal flexibility, and lowering your risk for future complications. Your doctor will want to ensure bone deformation is avoided or slowed if it has already begun. Together you will determine what works best for you, but here are some common treatments.

  • Physical therapy: Working with a physical therapist can help soothe pain and keep joints flexible and moving. If you have ankylosing spondylitis, regular stretches can help prevent your spine from stiffening into an abnormal position.
  • Low-impact exercise: While exercise may seem counterintuitive, physical activity is one of the best ways you can manage symptoms like pain and stiffness. Exercise will aid in improving pain levels, increasing mobility and balance, and enhancing your overall quality of life.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication: Various medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be prescribed to help reduce the severity of inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid medication: Commonly injected into joints of your knee, shoulder, ankle, elbow, or spine, these shots work quickly to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. There are side effects associated with this method, so the number of shots are limited. Cortisone shots do not provide a long-term solution.
  • Antirheumatic medication: Often used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs may be prescribed if your arm and leg joints are affected by spondyloarthritis. Antirheumatic drugs can help slow the progression of damage caused by constant inflammation.
  • TNF alpha-blocker drugs: Used to fight inflammation from a variety of conditions, TNF alpha-blockers, also known as TNF blockers, is a class of drugs that block inflammation by encouraging your immune system to return to a normal level.
  • Surgery: Inflammation that never goes away and an immune system that never shuts off can be extremely wearing on your body. Joints and bone can start to break down, cartilage wears out, and your body doesn’t move and function as it used to. In this case, surgery may be necessary, including hip replacement or corrective procedures of the spine.
  • Antibiotics: If a bacterial infection is identified as the cause behind your symptoms of spondyloarthritis then your health care provider may provide an antibiotic.

Spondyloarthritis Diet

Eating a balanced diet is at the core of a healthy life and minimizing the effects of any chronic condition. It is important to try and maintain a normal weight to reduce the amount of pressure that is pressing on your bones and joints. With spondyloarthritis and the constant inflammation that accompanies it, experts recommend an anti-inflammatory diet.

This means knocking out alcohol, fried foods, processed items, and sugar. To give your immune system a boost and support your overall health, try eating fatty fish, whole grains, leafy vegetables, berries, lean protein, and nuts. It is also beneficial to eats foods rich in calcium like legumes, yogurt, almonds, beans and lentils, and leafy greens. You can get an amazing amount of nutrients from healthy food, but supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals can also help your body get all it needs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Essential for several functions within the body, fatty acids can be found in foods including fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, or in supplement form. Omega 3s have been found to help reduce joint inflammation associated with inflammatory arthritis conditions.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is essential for your bone and joint health. Vitamin D is an important partner to calcium in that it helps your body effectively absorb the calcium it needs. Having ample amounts of these vitamins strengthens your bone density, making bones less susceptible to breakages.

Amino Acids

Amino acids have been revered for many pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties and can be very effective at combating issues associated with arthritis (we wrote a whole article on it here!). They also can help build cartilage, which is especially useful if you suffer from any bone loss or deformation related to spondyloarthritis.

A supplement containing a mixture of amino acids ensures you receive a balanced amount of each essential element. Amino acids like L-methionine, L-arginine, glucosamine, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) help reduce inflammation, improve circulation and mobility, transfer micronutrients to joints, and decrease swelling and stiffness.

Spondyloarthritis can be very disruptive to your life, especially when the joint stiffness and pain are constant. However, a combined approach of lifestyle changes, self-care methods, support groups, medication, and physical therapy can help you lead a more active life and prevent further damage and complications.

Encephalitis: What Causes Inflammation of the Brain?

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain, and it can occur at any time and doesn’t favor any particular age, gender, race, or ethnicity. We’ve broken down the causes and symptoms of encephalitis as well as the treatments available so you can comfortably confront this intimidating condition.

Inflammation is a vital response of the body to injury and infection. Without it, the immune system wouldn’t intervene to heal damaged tissue or fight off dangerous pathogens. When the inflammatory process is working smoothly, it helps us conquer acute illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections. But when it goes awry, chronic inflammation can lead to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. Sometimes inflammation even affects the brain. And when inflammation of the brain occurs—but the spinal cord remains unaffected—it’s called encephalitis.

What Causes Inflammation of the Brain?

While the exact cause of encephalitis isn’t always clear, most cases are associated with viruses that have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier—the semipermeable membrane surrounding the brain—and infect the central nervous system. Viral infections that have been known to cause encephalitis include:

  • Herpes viruses:
  • Enteroviruses:
    • Poliovirus
    • Coxsackievirus
  • Mosquito-borne viruses:
    • West Nile
    • La Crosse
    • St. Louis
  • Tick-borne viruses:
  • Rabies virus
  • Viruses generally associated with childhood:

Even though viruses are the main cause of encephalitis, the condition can also be the result of bacteria, parasites, noninfectious causes like drug allergies, demyelinating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune diseases, including a rare condition known as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, which was only recently identified in 2007.

Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis was largely brought to public attention by the memoir Brain on Fire and can result in a number of bizarre psychiatric symptoms, which has led experts to speculate that the disorder most likely explains the cases of so-called demonic possession that have been documented over the centuries.

Types of Encephalitis

There are two broad types of encephalitis, and which kind you have depends on how the infection attacks your body and how your body responds.

  • Primary encephalitisThe primary form of encephalitis occurs when the offending pathogen directly infects the brain.
  • Secondary encephalitis: The secondary form of encephalitis results when an infection occurring elsewhere in the body triggers an abnormal response in the immune system in which both the substance causing the infection and healthy brain cells are attacked. As this form of encephalitis often appears 2 to 3 weeks after the initial infection, secondary encephalitis is also known as postinfectious encephalitis.

Amino Re Input Updates Encephalitis: What Causes Inflammation of the Brain?

Symptoms of Encephalitis

Symptoms of brain inflammation can range from mild to severe. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), benign forms of encephalitis may present as mild flu-like symptoms. According to NINDS and the Mayo Clinic, those who do have symptoms often experience some of the following:

Flu-like symptoms: Brain fog Loss of consciousness
Fever
Headache
Muscle aches
Joint pain
Fatigue
Weakness
Confusion Seizures
Agitation Double vision
Hallucinations Impaired judgment
Difficulty hearing or speaking Memory loss
Partial paralysis or loss of sensation Personality changes

In cases of encephalitis involving young children, symptoms may also include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability

Diagnosing Encephalitis

After obtaining a medical history and performing a physical exam, your health care provider may order a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis of encephalitis. Tests commonly used to diagnose the condition include:

  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Spinal tap
  • Brain biopsy
  • Urine or blood tests
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)

Risk Factors for Encephalitis

According to the Encephalitis Society, approximately 250,000 cases of encephalitis have been diagnosed in the United States over the last decade. While that equates to only about 1 in 200,000 cases each year, several factors are known to increase the risk of developing the condition. These include:

  • Age: Young children and older adults are more at risk.
  • Weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems due to conditions such as HIV, certain drugs, illnesses, or poor nutrition are more at risk.
  • Geographic location: People who live in areas where mosquito- and tick-borne diseases are common are more at risk.

Complications of Encephalitis

Most cases of encephalitis are relatively mild, and those affected generally recover within a few weeks with no long-term side effects. However, in severe cases, the resulting brain damage can lead to coma or even death. Other less life-threatening complications can occur as well and may persist for months or years. These include:

  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Personality changes
  • Speech and swallowing issues
  • Epilepsy
  • Mood disorders
  • Attention and concentration problems
  • Balance and coordination issues

People suffering from these types of long-term side effects will need additional therapy to improve functioning. Types of therapy that might be required include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy

Encephalitis Treatment

Because encephalitis is considered a serious medical condition, even mild cases require hospitalization and close monitoring. Beyond that, specific care will be determined based on age, overall health, medical history, and disease severity. Treatment will also focus on addressing the underlying cause and symptoms and supporting overall well-being.

Mild cases of encephalitis may be treated with:

  • Bed rest
  • Fluids
  • Headache and fever medications

If the encephalitis is found to be the result of bacteria or fungi, the appropriate antibiotic or antifungal medication will be instituted.

Likewise, cases resulting from viruses are usually treated with antiviral medications even though not all viruses respond to antivirals. This is because the risk of severe complications with encephalitis, coupled with the fact that the specific virus may never be identified, leads many health care providers to opt for antivirals as a precaution.

Supportive treatment for severe cases of encephalitis may also include:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Steroids
  • Anticonvulsant medications
  • Anti-inflammatories

Amino Acids for Encephalitis

Amino acids are well known as building blocks of protein and are needed for proper functioning of the entire body, including the immune system and brain. Some amino acids also offer anti-inflammatory and antiviral benefits.

Interestingly, recent research has even suggested a link between Alzheimer’s disease and HSV—one of the viruses known to cause encephalitis. In addition, like Alzheimer’s, herpes simplex encephalitis may lead to long-term memory loss. However, the amino acid lysine has the ability to suppress replication rates of the herpes virus and may therefore be a valuable addition to encephalitis treatment.

Recovering from Encephalitis

As you begin the process of recovering from encephalitis, it’s especially important to focus on ways to improve your overall health and help decrease levels of inflammation in the body. To this end, making dietary changes with the ability to reduce chronic inflammation may be particularly helpful. Some of these dietary changes include:

  • Eating more antioxidant-rich foods
  • Eating less red meat
  • Avoiding refined or processed foods
  • Cooking with healthy oils
  • Eating more healthy fats
  • Drinking plenty of filtered water

According to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the following supplements and herbs may also be helpful in rebuilding the body after encephalitis:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin C
  • Probiotics
  • Green tea
  • Cat’s claw
  • Garlic
  • Astragalus
  • Elderberry

Finally, it’s important to remember that early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for preventing potential complications of encephalitis, so be sure to seek immediate medical attention at the first sign of severe headache, fever, or altered consciousness.

Amino Re Input Updates Encephalitis: What Causes Inflammation of the Brain?

What Is Ulcerative Colitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine and rectum. Symptoms usually develop over time and may develop into life-threatening complications. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments.

There are many diseases that can affect the gastrointestinal system, from irritable bowel syndrome to Crohn’s disease, but ulcerative colitis is one of the most debilitating. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, 1.6 million Americans have inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis affects 907,000 of them. How does ulcerative colitis differ from other digestive disorders, and what exactly is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the large intestine and rectum and causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Symptoms usually develop over time and may lead to life-threatening complications.

Complications of ulcerative colitis can include swelling of the colon (toxic megacolon), a hole in the colon, bone loss, blood clots, colorectal cancer, and even liver disease.

Ulcerative Colitis Causes

The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Doctors used to suspect that diet and stress were responsible for the disease, but they now believe that diet and stress are not the cause but can indeed make the disease worse.

Immune system malfunction is considered a possible cause, because when the immune system reacts to an invasion, it attacks the cells in the digestive tract.  Mistaking food and gut bacteria as invaders, white blood cells proliferate in the lining of the colon, causing chronic inflammation and ulcers.

Despite the lack of consensus on a precise cause, risk factors may include age, race or ethnicity, and family history (you may be at risk if you have a close relative who has or had the disease).

Ulcerative colitis usually affects people before the age of 30, and Caucasians are more likely to develop this condition.

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis depend on the level of inflammation, and they are classified according to location.

Ulcerative colitis is a disease that affects the large intestine and rectum. It is an inflammatory bowel disease, also known as IBD, which causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Symptoms usually develop over time and may develop into life-threatening complications.

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

Bloody diarrhea Abdominal pain
Cramps Bloody stool
Rectal pain Urgent need to defecate
Inability to defecate Unexplained weight loss
Joint pain Tiredness
Fever Stunted growth in children

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

  • Ulcerative proctitis: The mildest form of ulcerative colitis, ulcerative proctitis is characterized by rectal bleeding and inflammation in the region closest to the rectum.
  • Proctosigmoiditis: Here, the inflammation occurs in the rectum and sigmoid colon. Symptoms are typically bloody stool, abdominal pain, and inability to produce bowel movements but with the strong urge to do so.
  • Left-sided colitis: The inflammation that occurs with left-sided colitis travels to the descending colon and results in bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping on the left side, and weight loss.
  • Pancolitis: This type of ulcerative colitis inflames the entire colon. Symptoms may be more intense and weight loss drastic.
  • Acute severe ulcerative colitis: The rarest type of colitis, it’s acute, severe, and affects every part of the colon.

Your health care provider will use blood tests to check for signs of anemia or infection and a stool sample to diagnose ulcerative colitis. To investigate further, your doctor may order a colonoscopy, a more invasive exam that allows for a view of the entire colon using a thin, lighted tube with an attached camera.

If the colon is too inflamed for a colonoscopy, your doctor with opt for a flexible sigmoidoscopy to examine your rectum and colon. If a complication is suspected, a CT scan may be ordered, and if symptoms are especially pronounced, your physician may take an X-ray to rule out a condition such as a perforated colon.

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment Options

The type of treatment depends on the severity of the condition—and it may take time to find a medication that helps because not everybody reacts in the same way to drugs. It is crucial to follow your doctor’s directions because many of these drugs have side effects. You can also check out this article on the best and worst foods to eat for ulcerative colitis to help manage your symptoms.

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Anti-inflammatory drugs include 5-aminosalicylates (the primary choice for mild to moderate ulcerative colitis) such as sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), mesalamine (Asacol HD, Delzicol, others), balsalazide (Colazal), and olsalazine (Dipentum). Corticosteroids are generally used in cases of severe ulcerative colitis that don’t respond to other treatments—these drugs have strong side effects, so long-term use is not recommended.

Immune System Suppressors

These drugs help lower inflammation, but they also suppress the immune system response. The most common immunosuppressant drugs include Azathioprine (Azasan) and mercaptopurine (Purinethol). Cyclosporine (Gengraf) is usually prescribed to people who have had issues with other medications. This drug has serious side effects and is not for long-term use.

Drugs such as infliximab (Remicade) neutralize a protein produced by your immune system, and they are usually proscribed for those with severe ulcerative colitis who have had issues with other treatments.

Other Medications

Antibiotics are usually prescribed to ulcerative colitis sufferers running a fever. Anti-diarrheal medications (Imodium) may be effective for severe diarrhea. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be used. Do not use ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen sodium (Aleve), and diclofenac sodium (Voltaren), which can exacerbate symptoms. Iron supplements can help manage anemia in patients with chronic intestinal bleeding.

Surgery

Surgery can be effective in eliminating ulcerative colitis, but the procedure removes the rectum and the entire colon. The surgeon constructs a pouch from the end of the small intestine and attaches it directly to the anus, allowing the patient to expel waste without using a bag to collect stool.

It is important to mention that patients with ulcerative colitis are at higher risk of developing colon cancer. Frequent screenings are recommended. If the disease goes beyond the rectum, a surveillance colonoscopy should be done every 1 to 2 years.

How to Treat Ulcerative Colitis with Amino Acids

Studies suggest that L-arginine, a nonessential amino acid known to keep the immune system strong, can help patients who have ulcerative colitis. In a rat model, L-arginine supplementation healed the intestinal mucosa. Another test analyzed the effect of L-arginine on patients with histologically-proven pancolitis. The experiment showed that L-arginine concentration may prove to be useful as a biomarker for ulcerative colitis disease severity.

More generally, ulcerative colitis patients are at risk of nutrient depletion, particularly during an inflammatory flare-up. To counter this, the European Society for Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition recommends an increase in dietary protein intake to a level as much as twice the recommended dietary allowance for healthy individuals in order to maintain muscle mass and function. This level of intake may be impractical to achieve, and complete digestion may be limited.

Adding an essential amino acid supplement to the diet may provide important beneficial effects. When provided in free form, amino acids are fully digested in the small intestine and therefore act locally through the luminal side via the bloodstream to reach mucosal sites distant from the sites of absorption. Amino acid supplementation has been shown to provide beneficial effects on the inflammatory response, oxidative stress reactions, and other favorable effects in the gut. In addition, supplementation with essential amino acids will help to maintain muscle mass and metabolic health.

The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods Everyone Should Be Eating

When health experts speak of an “anti-inflammatory diet,” they hope to help people who suffer from chronic inflammation, but all can benefit from anti-inflammatory nutrients. Eating anti-inflammatory foods protects against certain diseases and slows the aging process. Here are the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat.

Chances are, you’ve come across the term before: anti-inflammatory foods. You have a general sense that it’s important to include these foods in your diet, and you may even be able to name a few, like fatty fish and leafy greens. You may also have questions: like why exactly it’s important to combat inflammation and what the best anti-inflammatory foods to do so might be. Read on to find out.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to a threat. When our immune system recognizes a threat, such as a microbe or a virus, it responds by releasing specialized defenses to neutralize that threat.

Inflammation forms a crucial component of the immune system’s defenses. Our body uses inflammation to heal itself and defend against invaders—a process that often involves some redness and swelling. If you sprain your ankle, for example, the surrounding area will swell and become inflamed while your body works to heal that injury. Short-term inflammation triggered by an injury or infection comprises an important part of the body’s healing process. But long-term, recurrent, persistent chronic inflammation? That’s an entirely different beast.

Chronic inflammation does not result from an injury or infection, but rather as the result of ongoing influences such as a lack of sleep, high levels of stress, or a poor diet. Unlike beneficial, healing, short-term inflammation, this type arises even when you’re not under direct threat from a foreign invader.

Chronic inflammation can be seen as an immune system dysfunction. In essence, the body sends a response to a threat that is perceived but that does not require an inflammatory response. The immune system then kicks into overdrive and won’t turn off. This can occur due to chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, or due to an inability to distinguish between real and perceived threats.

The Effects of Chronic Inflammation

When left unaddressed for too long, chronic inflammation can trigger a multitude of disease processes. This makes it fertile territory for many researchers who hope to better comprehend its mechanisms and foster methods for counteracting it.

Scientists are still working to understand all the effects of chronic inflammation, but it is clear that it has been linked to a host of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, bone loss, depression, aggressive behavior, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer. All these conditions can be affected by lifestyle and environmental factors, such as:

  • Excess weight
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Pollution
  • Poor oral health
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Chronic inflammation is, in essence, a prolonged state of emergency. The continued presence of inflammatory cells in the blood vessels leads to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which causes the walls of the arteries to thicken and harden. This, in turn, substantially increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Inflammation plays a significant role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease as well. Scientists have now proved unequivocally that inflammatory compounds can cross the blood-brain barrier, but have yet to identify exactly how they contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s and other conditions that adversely impact the health of the brain.

While elevated inflammatory markers unquestionably have an adverse impact on your health, the good news is that we have the ability to influence a number of factors that lead to chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases.

One of the most effective ways to fight chronically high levels of inflammation is through our diets. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

25 of the Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Add to Your Diet

When health experts suggest adopting a proven anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, the primary goal of such an approach is to alleviate the negative outcomes experienced by individuals suffering from chronic inflammation. That said, everyone can benefit from eating more anti-inflammatory nutrients.

These 25 powerful anti-inflammatory foods can help protect against certain diseases and slow the aging process, stabilize blood sugar, increase metabolism, and even lower your cancer risk.

The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods Everyone Should Be Eating

To facilitate a concise and comprehensible overview of the ways certain foods with potent inflammation-quelling effects improve your health, we’ve divided them into four general categories:

  1. Vegetables and fruits
  2. Healthy fats
  3. Fiber-filled foods
  4. Herbs, spices, and more

Foods from these four categories provide crucial nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, niacin, and vitamin C that benefit your health on many levels.

1. Vegetables and Fruits

It’s no coincidence that just about every expert out there recommends vegetables and fruits as the basis of a healthy lifestyle. Loading up on these foods can help to combat weight gain, safeguard your heart health, prevent metabolic syndrome, and more.

In addition to common healthy eating favorites such as leafy greens and vitamin-C loaded oranges, make sure to incorporate plenty of cruciferous vegetables and alliums into your diet.

Cruciferous vegetables—a family that includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts—and alliums—such as garlic, scallions, onions, and leek—have antioxidant properties and have been shown to lower the risk of cancer. If you like garlic, eating one clove per day is ideal—it might add an extra punch to your favorite meals.

2. Healthy Fats

While popular opinion used to demonize fats, the truth is that far from undermining your health, they can dramatically improve it.

Plus, adding fat to your food enhances its flavor.

Oil is an essential ingredient in the kitchen and offers the opportunity to select a type of fat that brings health benefits, such as extra-virgin olive oil. Olive oil lowers the risk of heart disease by helping to reduce cholesterol levels.

A special place in your diet should go to avocados, which contain omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to have antioxidant properties. A 2013 study in the journal Food & Function found that people who ate a hamburger with avocado had lower levels of a kind of inflammatory marker called CRP (C-reactive protein) 4 hours after eating than those who did not.

Prioritizing healthy fats should impact your selection of proteins too. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases. Cold-water fish, such as salmon, herring, tuna, trout, and mackerel, are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include beans (navy, kidney, and soy), flax seeds, and walnuts.

Many foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like cold-water fish and beans, are also excellent sources of amino acids, which have strong inflammation-fighting effects of their own. A diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids and protein lowers the risk of chronic diseases and enhances muscle growth and strength.

3. Fiber-Filled Foods

In addition to many vegetables, like okra, eggplant, and onions, and a variety of fruits like bananas and blueberries, the best sources of fiber include whole grains such as brown rice, barley, and oatmeal.

The fiber in whole grains mediates inflammatory processes by helping with weight loss and feeding beneficial gut bacteria, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

4. Herbs, Spices, and More

When cooking vegetables, consider adding spices like ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves, and nutmeg, which have anti-inflammatory compounds. These spices add kick to your meal and are also good for your health.

Extensive research also shows that green tea and dark chocolate (in part due to its magnesium content) can lower inflammation levels.

Can Foods Cause Inflammation?

It’s important to introduce healthy foods into your diet to fight chronic inflammation, but it’s also critical to avoid certain foods.

It can be all too easy to inadvertently eat a pro-inflammatory diet by overdoing it on refined carbohydrates like white bread and pastries, fried foods, soda and all the sugar-sweetened beverages, and processed meat such as hot dogs.

Most foods that contribute to inflammation are generally foods you should eliminate from your diet or consume in moderation, as they are linked to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Processed foods contain trans fats, which have higher levels of C-reactive protein, a cause of inflammation. It’s essential to read labels when you go grocery shopping—in 2006, the FDA required food manufacturers to identify trans fats on nutrition labels, so taking time to read the ingredients contained in the food you buy is crucial.

How to Build an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A healthy, anti-inflammatory diet includes several servings of foods high in amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids each week, fiber every day, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

You should also limit the consumption of saturated fat to 10% of your daily calories.

One way to help meet these goals is to snack strategically. You can add a few servings of healthy foods like berries or walnuts, and the powerful anti-inflammatory compounds they contain will stack up quickly.

If your meals need extra sweetness, try adding naturally sweet fruits rather than sugar. You may find that working in spices that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties to add flavor will have the added bonus of not necessitating as much added sweetness as you’re accustomed to.

There’s no one perfect anti-inflammatory diet, and it’s vital that you consider your own preferences as well as what scientists have discovered about certain foods. The most effective way to use foods to improve your health is not to adopt a short-term strategy like a cleanse but rather to make sustainable changes to your long-term interactions with food.