The symptoms are intermittent, often not occurring for months or years. During mild attacks, symptoms may develop over a few days and include diarrhoea (sometimes with blood, pus and mucus), an urgent need to go to the toilet, tiredness, nausea, abdominal pain and poor appetite.
In severe attacks, the symptoms come on suddenly and may include severe diarrhoea many times a day, passing of blood and mucus, fever, abdominal pain and swelling, and weight loss.
A potentially fatal complication of ulcerative colitis is inflammation and extreme distension of the colon, called toxic megacolon, which may result in bowel perforation.
People with ulcerative colitis may also have an associated inflammatory arthritis, eye disorders (episcleriitis/ uveitis) and erythema nodosum.
Causes and risk factors
Its exact cause is unknown, making prevention difficult, but triggers which set off an episode include bouts of gastroenteritis or taking medication, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.
Treatment and recovery
Fenugreek tincture - add to boiled water. Fenugreek contains healing mucilage that soothes irritated membranes.
A traditional remedy is comfrey tea (leaf not the root) which can be drunk up to three times daily. It is purported to aid the regeneration of the membranes.
Slippery elm powder - a soothing demulcent that coats and soothes the membranes. Also excellant for convalscence. Take half a teaspoon in water thrice daily.
Fast 3-10 days during which abundant fluids (apple juice, carrot juice, herb teas and spring water) are taken. The fast is slowly broken by a bland diet of ripe bananas and slippery elm poser. Baked apple, steamed vegetables, cooked potatoes, steamed fish, carob bean powder and soya milk. (Avoid daily and wheat products and high fibre foods).