UC Medication: Don't Skip Doses
You need to take medication even when your ulcerative colitis is in remission. That can be easy to forget when you have no active symptoms.
According to a 2006 CCFA survey, 65% of people with UC don't always take their medications as they should, mostly because of the number of pills required and frequency of dosing. But people who skip their medications have five times more UC flare-ups.
“Some medications must be taken two or three times a day,” Johnson says. “I often see people skip a dose. But you need to take the medicine as prescribed.”
If your doctor prescribes a corticosteroid, don’t try to wean yourself off it on your own, as tempting as it may be. With any ulcerative colitis medication, always call your doctor if you think you need a change, rather than doing it on your own.
Other Medications Can Cause a UC Flare
Infections -- even those that have nothing to do with your intestine, like a cold -- can cause flares, says Sartor. And so can medications used to treat infections.
“Sometimes people take antibiotics for an infection, and the infection clears up, but their ulcerative colitis flares up,” Sartor tells WebMD. Other drug culprits include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and naproxen (Aleve).
If your UC symptoms flare, be sure to talk to your doctor about any antibiotics or NSAIDs you are taking or have taken recently. Your doctor may recommend you take acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead for mild pain and fever.
Food, Fiber, and Flares
It may seem obvious to blame a piece of pepperoni pizza or double mocha latte for bringing on your UC symptoms, but the relationship between food and ulcerative colitis is different for each person.
“People will say, ‘What I just ate caused diarrhea, so I’m not going to eat that again,’” Sartor says. “But when you have active disease, the symptoms may be stimulated by eating anything, rather than by eating a particular food.”
Still, people with UC often report that foods such as salad make their symptoms worse. “High-fiber diets often cause people to have more frequent bowel movements,” Johnson says. “So we tell patients to eat a low-fat, low-fiber diet if they’re having a flare-up.”
If fiber seems to be a problem for you, try cooking vegetables and fruits before eating them so you don’t have to eliminate them entirely.
It may be also wise to avoid “gassy” items such as fried foods, cabbage, broccoli, beans, and caffeinated drinks while your UC is raging.
“Coffee tends to stimulate bowel movements,” Sartor says. “If any caffeinated beverages do that to you, try decaf products for a week.” But don’t skimp on beverages such as water, if you can help it. Dehydration is a risk with diarrhea.
When you’re not having a flare, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before dropping any food off your list permanently.