Just when you think you’re in control of ulcerative colitis, symptoms can rage without warning. “Flares can still occur even if ulcerative colitis has been well-controlled for a long time,” says Sara Horst, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Vanderbilt Digestive Disease Center and an assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
It’s not always possible to pinpoint the cause of a flare, but it is crucial to do everything you can to keep ulcerative colitis in check. “Uncontrolled inflammation over a long period of time can have serious consequences, such as weight loss, fatigue, vitamin deficiencies, anemia from low iron, and even blood clots,” Dr. Horst says. To play it safe, follow these tips to keep ulcerative colitis symptoms at bay and calm them quickly when they do flare.
In an article published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in March 2012, researchers examined the impact of stress and mental health on ulcerative colitis flares. It’s thought that stress, and the hormones it triggers, affects the motility of the gut and worsens inflammation.
Horst recommends doing your best to avoid stress as much as you can and, when that’s not possible, finding healthy ways to cope with it. Try getting regular exercise and practicing a stress-relieving technique such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation.