Several factors, including environmental risk factors, can play a role in triggering flare-ups of ulcerative colitis, during which symptoms return or worsen.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the colon and rectum.
During flare-ups, people usually experience symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. A period of remission often follows a flare-up.
Although the exact cause of CU
Dr. Ashkan Farhadi, a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, spoke with Medical News Today about the different environmental factors and how they can affect people living with UC.
This article also reviews current studies related to environmental factors that may affect a person’s UC symptoms.
A person’s environment can expose them to risk factors that can worsen or potentially cause UC flare-ups.
Although everyone reacts differently, some common environmental triggers
- pollution exposure
- use of certain medications
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation notes that an infection may be the triggering event that causes UC to develop.
In a 2021 study, researchers found that the rate of common infections, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Clostridioides difficileis higher in people with UC.
However, Dr. Farhadi pointed out that although bacterial infections Salmonella and Campylobacter have an association with UC, “we can’t say it’s causal.”
Dr. Farhadi also noted that if a person has a It’s hard infection, they will experience flare-ups that do not respond to treatment. A person will need to receive treatment to get rid of the infection before they can “bring the disease into remission”.
A person should remain alert to signs of infection, especially while using corticosteroids, biologics, or immunotherapies.
Smoking can have many health consequences, but UC does not appear to be one of them. Studies have actually shown weak evidence that smoking can reduce the severity of UC.
Experts don’t fully understand the protective effect of smoking on UC, but nicotine may play a role. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, nicotine may protect against UC by:
- increase mucus production in the colon and rectum
- suppress the immune system and prevent colon inflammation
- releasing nitric oxide, which can reduce muscle activity in the colon
According to a
- Difficulty sleeping
Dr. Farhadi noted that “quitting smoking can cause a flare-up of UC, but the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh the risk of flare-ups.”
The health benefits of quitting smoking
- improved overall health
- increased life expectancy
- less risk of cancer
- lower risk of heart disease and stroke
In other words, people who smoke should always consider quitting even if it causes their UC symptoms to flare up.
Certain medications can trigger flare-ups in a person’s UC symptoms. These medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). Certain antibiotics can also trigger flare-ups.
Also, people using medications for their UC may have flare-ups if they don’t take them regularly.
lack of exercise
Regular movement can benefit a person’s overall health by
According to Dr. Farhadi, “regular exercise [can help] manage stress. “His advice is to take daily walks”[for a] minimum of 30 minutes, at your fastest pace possible and convenient without jogging.
This type of exercise can boost cardiovascular fitness, manage body weight, improve sleep, and also reduce stress.
Stress can make UC symptoms worse.
Dr. Farhadi said several of his patients have reported psychological stress and flare-ups occurring around the same time. He added that divorce, final exams, job interviews and other stressful events can trigger UC symptoms.
He recommended that people with UC work to improve their stress management to better handle stressful situations. In addition to exercise, he suggested mindful meditation.
Sleep may play a role in preventing or reducing the severity of UC flare-ups.
According to Dr. Farhadi, a person should plan to follow a “constant sleep hygiene” routine at least 6 days a week. This can help minimize UC surges.
Some tips to improve sleep hygiene
- remove all electronic devices from the room
- sleep in a dark room at a comfortable temperature
- go to bed and wake up at a regular time
- avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and large meals before bed
- participate in regular physical activity
According to a 2019 review of studies, air pollution may play a role in the development of UC. Researchers looked at children’s home environments and noted that children who grew up with constant or regular exposure to air pollutants had an increased rate of developing UC.
Diet and food additives
Dr. Farhadi noted that diet can play a role in helping someone with UC, but he also said that no studies have proven that one diet is better than another when it comes to UC. .
Instead, he suggested people “follow their instincts.” In other words, if a food bothers them, they should avoid it altogether. He also said people who are lactose intolerant may experience flare-ups of their UC symptoms when they consume dairy products.
Some studies also list carbonated drinks as a risk factor for UC flare-ups.
Along the same lines, some people may find exclusion diets help their UC symptoms.
The study authors don’t recommend any specific exclusion diet, but they do advise people living with UC to eat more home-cooked foods. By doing so, they can avoid food additives, such as sugar and salt, which could cause flare-ups.