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Keep Eating

Don't stop eating altogether during a flare, says Cataldo. "A lot of patients do this, thinking it will stop the flare," he says. "But instead it can lead to malnourishment and dehydration -- and people in the middle of a flare are already at risk for dehydration."

Instead, try an elimination diet approach. Stop eating a specific food for a short time to see if you feel better. Dairy, for example, is a common flare trigger. Muldoon also suggests avoiding items such as salad, vegetables, brown rice, bran, popcorn, beans, seeds, nuts, and fruits.

Surgery Is an Option

Surgery is primarily recommended for UC because long-term inflammatory bowel disease can raise your risk of colon cancer. Surgery can also be an option, though, if you've had the disease a long time and your flares are so severe that drugs no longer control them.

The most common surgery for UC is the ileoanal procedure. That involves removing all of the colon and rectum while preserving the anal canal so you can continue to go to the bathroom normally. Your rectum gets replaced with a small bowel, which is reworked to form a small pouch inside your body.

Taking the colon and rectum out also removes the pain, inflammation, cancer risk, and constant urges to go to the bathroom that are part of a UC flare. You'll still need to go eight to 10 times a day, Muldoon says, but that's an improvement on 20 to 30 times.

"People who get this surgery are so happy to get their life back," she says.