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Vitamins and Supplements for Ulcerative Colitis

Food Supplements for Ulcerative Colitis continued...

Ask your doctor if you should be taking a vitamin D supplement. Experts differ in their recommendations for vitamin D supplementation, so talk to your doctor about the best option for you.

Calcium. Calcium is the mineral the body uses to build bones. Your body also uses it in other ways, such as helping muscles contract or sending messages through the nervous system. If your system does not have enough calcium, the body removes it from the bones, causing them to become brittle and leading to the development of osteoporosis.

Avoiding dairy products, along with the effect various medicines have on calcium, makes a calcium deficiency a strong possibility with ulcerative colitis. If your doctor recommends taking a calcium supplement, you'll probably need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day.

Iron. People with ulcerative colitis can lose iron through bleeding from the sores in the colon. Not having enough iron can lead to anemia. A lack of iron means your body can't make enough healthy red blood cells to transport an adequate supply of oxygen throughout your body. With anemia you may feel tired a lot, have a fast or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, problems thinking, and other symptoms. Your doctor can tell if you have an iron deficiency with a blood test. If you do, the doctor will probably recommend you take an iron supplement.

Folate or folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that your body needs to make healthy new cells. In women, it also protects against birth defects of the baby's spine or brain. Folic acid can also reduce the risk of colon cancer, which is elevated in people with ulcerative colitis.

People with UC often find it difficult to tolerate certain foods such as dark leafy vegetables that are a major source of folate and typically have low levels of folate. Those levels can be made even lower as a result of certain medications. Ask your doctor if you should be taking a folic acid supplement.

Supplements Being Studied for Ulcerative Colitis

A number of dietary supplements are being studied for their potential benefits for people with ulcerative colitis.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil reduced symptoms and prevented the recurrence of UC in at least one study. Other studies, however, have not had the same results.

Probiotics are "good" bacteria or other microorganisms that can be beneficial to your health. In several studies, they have been shown to reduce ulcerative colitis symptoms. The thinking is that probiotics, like lactobacillus or live-culture yogurt, help to restore balance to the good bacteria that live inside the intestines.

A few studies have noted a therapeutic effect of aloe vera taken in the form of an oral gel. More research is needed to verify and identify its benefits.

Other supplements are also being studied to see if they can be effectively used to manage ulcerative colitis. Your doctor can help you find out more about the studies.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Andrew Seibert, MD on October 24, 2012

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