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Healthy Tips

Quick Dose: What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

You likely take digestion for granted. You eat food. It comes out as waste. No fuss.

This isn’t the case for 900,000 Americans with ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes swelling and ulcers in the lining of the colon and rectum.

It can cause erratic bowel movements, blood in stool, abdominal pain, appetite loss, weight loss and fatigue.

While its cause is unknown, ulcerative colitis can be treated to minimize or eliminate symptoms.


Physicians may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce swelling, immunosuppression medications to control the immune system’s response to inflammation and antibiotics in case of infection.

Lifestyle Changes

Certain foods can worsen symptoms, so diet is imperative. High-fiber foods, like fresh vegetables, and high-fat foods, such as dairy, can cause symptoms in many people. Foods that trigger symptoms vary person to person, so it’s important that people with ulcerative colitis track problematic foods to avoid.

Stress can also exacerbate symptoms. Practicing relaxation methods can reduce flare-ups of ulcerative colitis.


Surgery can control and even cure the disease. Physicians will recommend surgery on a case-by-case basis depending on symptom severity and pre-existing health conditions.

Consult a gastroenterologist if you have questions about ulcerative colitis or other inflammatory bowel diseases.

Digestive Health

Stephen B. Hanauer, MD
Stephen B. Hanauer, MD
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Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Primary Specialty Gastroenterology
  • Secondary Specialty Inflammatory Bowel Disease
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