Managing My UC with Natural Therapies

“How are you able to work full-time with ulcerative colitis?” I am often asked this question by people newly diagnosed with IBD. After living over 30 years with UC, I’ve learned to navigate the rollercoaster ride of nasty flares while also teaching full-time in a public high school setting. Believe me, it’s taken years to learn what treatments and therapies work best for my body.

For those new to either Crohn’s or UC, let me first recommend digging into reading testimonials from those of us who have tried it all. Then, begin your own journey with “trial and error.”

It is important to keep in mind, any trial and error process like mine should also include discussions with your doctor, to ensure you are keeping your body safe. In this article, I’ll share three natural therapies that I have adopted daily for managing my UC.

Natural therapies for colitis

First, I’ll share two herbal remedies that I’ve used for about 15 years.

Psyllium husk

To begin, I added psyllium husk to my morning routine after my mother-in-law suggested it to reduce my UC diarrhea. But before I purchased any product with psyllium husk, I read a few articles to decide if I wanted to try it.

Online, I found many research articles about how psyllium fiber suppresses inflammation in the body. Some studies suggested that psyllium could also protect against colitis flares.2 So, I bought a small container of it for $8 USD to try for myself. That was more than a decade ago, and I still take a teaspoon of sugar-free psyllium husk each morning.

Am I totally UC flare-free? No, but I do believe it has helped reduce how often I flare.

Turmeric

Next, when I got fed up with taking prescribed medications for my colitis with all the side effects, I began researching “alternative therapies.” One herbal treatment I found highlighted as potentially helpful for my UC was turmeric. Known as the “golden spice of India,” turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used for thousands of years as an essential medicine to help fight various health issues.1

With that information, I purchased a small bottle of turmeric for under $10 USD. That, too, was more than a decade ago, and I still take the recommended dose along with psyllium husk each morning. Once again, I’m not “cured” from UC, but since adopting my daily regimen of psyllium husk and turmeric, I am no longer in a constant flare.

When I do hit the occasional flare, I find I no longer need to take prescribed medication for as long as I used to. Usually, a small round of either prednisone or mesalamine (less than a month), seems to get my gut under control. The time I’m in remission lasts longer, too. Is that due to the complementary therapies of psyllium husk and turmeric?

Ashwagandha

Recently, I hit a new phase in my health journey. Lately, menopause has acted as more of a nemesis than UC. I have struggled a great deal with brain fog, stress and anxiety, low energy levels, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, and discomfort during intimacy. You know, all the lovely symptoms that only we women are blessed to get hit with as we age. Per my morning routine of listening to podcasts, I kept hearing certain menopause specialists reference another herbal remedy: ashwagandha. What is that? My new research began.

Also known as Indian ginseng or “winter cherry,” ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an evergreen shrub used for thousands of years as an herbal remedy to help ease autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Lately, it has been promoted for reducing stress and anxiety and cognitive disorders.3

Do most of my UC flares occur during high levels of stressful times? Absolutely! Maybe this alternative therapy could be effective for my body for multiple reasons. There hasn’t been a plethora of research focused on ashwagandha and IBD. I hope more studies will be done to see whether this herbal therapy is effective for those living with Crohn’s or UC.

But due to my menopause issues, I wanted to try it like I have other natural therapies. For $18 USD, I bought a bottle. Before buying it, though, I did some research on what to look for in ashwagandha supplements. Because not all supplements are created equally, one should know what to look for on the ingredients label before buying. I try to make sure the ashwagandha is “root-only” extract and not the plant’s leaves. I look for KSM-66 on the label, wanting to ensure it consists of active root compounds with the highest percentage of withanolides (the healthy compounds). Also, I look for black pepper extract for enhanced absorption of nutrients.4 And always, I look for one that is GMP-certified. That means the supplement has been manufactured in a facility that adheres to strict FDA standards for safety and quality.5

To date, I do feel better and sleep better. My anxiety has reduced to a level that I recognize as substantially lower (and I have many stressors affecting my life right now). My gut has not rebelled against it. So far, all three natural therapies seem to complement one another.

Precautions

But remember, no cure exists for UC. It’s all about learning to navigate the flares. In addition, I want to stress some precautions. First, always do your research about any alternate therapy before starting. Then, talk to a specialist or physician. Taking herbs or supplements can interact with prescribed medications. For this reason alone, you should only take any new natural therapy under a doctor’s supervision. Also, never take any herbs while pregnant or breastfeeding. Finally, be sure to only take the recommended dosage. Never consume more than what’s recommended on labels. Side effects can occur, so stop taking any supplement if unwanted side effects occur.

The bottom line is that you know your body best. Pay attention to it and communicate with your health care team as you navigate any new supplemental pathway.

Have you tried any of these three therapies?

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.