Drinking Alcohol with Ulcerative Colitis
Those individuals who have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis are likely to need to make some major changes to their life. This can include eating differing things and avoiding anything that exacerbates their symptoms. A common question that people with this type of inflammatory bowel disease will have is whether they are allowed to consume alcohol. There is no definitive answer to this, but it is certain that people with UC should avoid drinking above safe limits.
Ulcerative Colitis Explained
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the colon. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease and shares many of the same symptoms as Crohn’s disease. There is no cure for UC, but it is usually possible to manage the symptoms.
Types of Ulcerative Colitis
The different types of ulcerative colitis can include:
- Ulcerative proctitis involves inflammation of the rectum.
- Universal colitis (pancolitis) involves inflammation of the entire colon.
- Fulminant colitis is a rare form of universal colitis that can be life threatening because it is such a severe inflammation.
- Prostosigmoiditis means an inflammation to the sigmoid colon as well as the rectum.
- Left sided colitis begins at the rectum and moves in the direction of the left colon.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
The exact symptoms that people will experience will depend on where the inflammation occurs but can involve:
- Rectal bleed
- Anemia is a lack of healthy red blood cells and it is caused by rectal bleeding.
- An urgent need to defecate
- Rectal pain
- Loss of fluids and nutrients from the body.
- Children with UC may fail to develop normally
- Skin lesions
- Rectal Tenesmus means that the individual feels unable to empty their bowels when they are defecating.
- Abdominal cramps
- Weight loss
- High body temperatures
- Night sweats
- Feeling tired all the time
Those individuals who have fulminant colitis can experience:
- Extreme abdominal pain
- Excessive bleeding from the anus
- Severe diarrhea
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
There is still some debate as to the exact cause of ulcerative colitis. In the past it was believed that stress was a major reason for the condition, but this has not been supported by evidence. It is likely that the condition is due to a number of different factors combining together including:
- It is likely that genetics plays a role in the development of ulcerative colitis. Those who have a parent or sibling with UC are more likely to develop the condition.
- It is also likely that this condition is originally triggered by some type of infection.
- It may occur because the immune system is mistakenly triggering an inflammatory response to kill a pathogen that is not there.
- Certain types of diet may encourage such inflammation
- Those who are of Ashkenazi Jewish decent seem to be more likely to develop the condition. White people also have a higher risk of developing UC than non-whites.
- Those who are under thirty years of age have a higher risk of developing UC.
- Those individuals who have taken the drug Isotretinoin seem to be more at risk.
Ulcerative Colitis and Alcohol
Many people with UC may be able to tolerate a moderate amount of alcohol, but some individuals will find that even a small amount leads to flare ups. It is definitely recommended that people avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol as this is almost certainly going to make their condition worse. Some people have found that the symptoms of their UC improved greatly once they gave up alcohol completely. It therefore seems sensible that those with the condition at least take a break from drinking to see if it helps.
Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis
The goal of treatment for UC is to avoid inflammation and the best approach to this will be decided by the severity of the symptoms. The most common form of treatment for the condition is drugs such as:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs work by reducing inflammation in the body. The usual anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat UC include corticosteroids, mesalamine, and sulfasalazine.
- Immune system suppressors such as azathioprine and cyclosporine work by preventing the inflammatory response occurring in the first place.
- It can be necessary for people to take other medications for their UC including; anti-diarrhea medication, antibiotics, iron tablets (to combat anemia), and pain relievers.
If medications are unable to keep the inflammation at bay it may be necessary to perform surgery. This may involve removing the entire colon and rectum. Once the procedure is performed the individual will need to wear a colostomy bag. There is usually no further inflammation after the surgery.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Ulcerative Colitis
There are things that people with UC can do to reduce the chances of inflammation including:
- Avoiding excessive use of alcohol. It is a good idea to take a break from drinking alcohol to see if this reduces the severity of symptoms.
- Those who are lactose intolerant should avoid too much dairy products.
- The individual is likely to find that certain foods will exacerbate their symptoms and this can differ between people. Keeping a food diary will allow people to see which food items need to be avoided.
- Avoid too much caffeine as these drinks can exacerbate diarrhea.
- It is best to eat regular small meals rather than large ones.
- Some people benefit from adding more fiber to their diet while for other people this may make their symptoms worse.
- Stress may not cause UC but it is still likely to exacerbate the symptoms. It can therefore be highly beneficial to learn some relaxation techniques in order to deal with stress more easily.