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Ulcerative Colitis Remission: What Helps

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 19, 2021

If you've been feeling well for the past few weeks -- your ulcerative colitis (UC) symptoms are better, and the disease doesn't get in the way of daily life -- you may wonder if you're in remission. Here's how to tell, plus answers to other common questions about remission.

How will I know I’m in remission?

There's no official definition for UC remission. But you'll know because you'll be symptom-free and your UC won't keep you from doing what you like.

Does this mean my ulcerative colitis is cured?

No, unfortunately. Remission isn’t the same as a cure. You might have another flare-up down the road. But if you continue to see your doctor and take your meds, it’s possible that you could go for years without any symptoms.

Can I stop taking my UC meds?

No. Sticking to your treatment is key to remaining in remission. In one study, people in remission who stopped taking their meds were five times more likely to relapse. Another study found that about 70% of people in remission will relapse within a year if they don't have some sort of maintenance therapy.

Will my ulcerative colitis symptoms return?

It’s possible, but not certain, that you could have a flare-up in the future. And even if you stay in remission, it's common to have occasional stomach pain or diarrhea. When that might happen is hard to predict.

What will help me stay in remission?

Keep taking your meds and check in regularly with your doctor. You can also support your overall health with general wellness practices such as staying hydrated, eating a varied and nutrient-rich diet, managing stress, and making sleep a priority. There's evidence that regular exercise may help ward off a relapse, too.

What is “deep remission?” from ulcerative colitis?

Although there's no formal definition of deep remission when it comes to UC, it basically means that you don't have any symptoms and you also don't have any ulcers, inflammation, or other bowel damage. There has been a shift in treating UC in recent years to focus more on this, the idea being that healing your colon helps you stay in remission longer and could also help protect you from colorectal cancer.

How will I know if I come out of remission?

Your symptoms will return. This could be frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, blood in your stool, stomach pain, fatigue, reduced appetite, and/or weight loss. If this happens, get in touch with your doctor and describe how you're feeling. Together, you can come up with a new treatment plan to get you back on track.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Gastroenterology & Hepatology: "Residual Inflammation and Ulcerative Colitis in Remission," "Mucosal Healing in Inflammatory Bowel Disease -- A True Paradigm of Success?"

World Journal of Meta-Analysis: "Remission endpoints in ulcerative colitis: A systematic review."

Cedars Sinai: "Ulcerative Colitis."

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation: "Living with Ulcerative Colitis," "What Should I Eat?" "Coping Strategies to Improve Mental Health," "Treatment Decisions: Shared Decision-Making," "Managing Flares and IBD Symptoms."

Patient Preference and Adherence: "Adherence in ulcerative colitis: an overview."

The American Journal of Medicine: "Medication nonadherence and the outcomes of patients with quiescent ulcerative colitis."

PLoS One: "The risk factor of clinical relapse in ulcerative colitis patients with low dose 5-aminosalicylic acid as maintenance therapy: A report from the IBD registry."

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: "Exercise Decreases Risk of Future Active Disease in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients in Remission."

Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology: "Sleep Duration Affects Risk for Ulcerative Colitis: A Prospective Cohort Study."

Mayo Clinic: "Mucosal healing in inflammatory bowel disease."

World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Mucosal healing and deep remission: What does it mean?"

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